The India Pulses and Grains Association (IPGA) has predicted a strong possibility of shortage in pulses production, especially due to uncertainty over sowing this crop year due to the pandemic.
The country is most likely to face scarcity of pulses this year including masoor, chana and other pulses. There could be a shortage of around 10 lakh tonne in the production of tur this year, he said.
As the apex body for the trade, IPGA is bringing it to the notice of the government well in advance to augment the supply side, Bimal Kothari, vice-chairman, IPGA said.
According to Kothari, there has been no long-term policy in pulses in the last few years, and the association has been recommending the need for a consistent long-term policy for the trade since demand is increasing. The Government of India is concerned that cheaper imports should not take place and, hence, they restricted most of the imports, he said.
The association has urged the government to free up imports with the rider that duties are slashed to the extent that the minimum landing price of imported goods should be more than the minimum support price (MSP) of the crop, he said.
Moreover, the Centre has asked state governments to monitor pulses under the Essential Commodities Act to control any spike in prices. “These instructions have only served to create apprehension amongst stakeholders, who are now hesitant to buy domestically produced pulses as well as import pulses. This is defeating the very purpose of the government’s move to remove the restrictions on the imports of tur, urad and moong,” said Kothari. As per the 3rd Advance Estimates data sourced from the website of the Ministry of Agriculture, for the crop year 2020-21, tur production is expected to be lower by almost 7 lakh tonne and urad is expected to be lower by 5.20 lakh tonne, and the overall kharif production is expected to be lower by 2.12 million tonne.
However, as per trade estimates, the production for tur has been around 2.90 million tonne, urad approximately 2.06 million tonne, moong around 2 million tonne, Chana around 9 million tonne and masoor around 0.95 million tonne, he said.
The government’s objective is to double farmers’ incomes and that can happen only if the trade can freely procure their produce without fears of coercive action from the central and state governments, he said. On the other hand, the government also wants to ensure adequate availability of the scheduled commodities at fair prices to the common people, he said.
“The traders are worried that legitimately procured stock also might come under the scanner and, in the ambit of the Essential Commodities Act, land the trader on the wrong side of law for no fault of his. Hence, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution needs to issue a categoric clarification, stating that their intentions are to just monitor stocks held by the trade for policy purposes which will help assuage apprehensions of the trade,” he said.
According to Kothari, the country’s production from 2015-16 median has gone up to 23 million tonne and the demand is 25-26 million tonne. “We are importing around 2.5 million tonne and are adding 1 million tonne every year to our demand. We are talking of self-sufficiency, but this has to be an ongoing process because the production target cannot be just 25-26 million tonne, we need to push production, look at ground realities and also import,” he said.
Speaking about the high prices of pulses on retail shelves he said, that the government needs to monitor the prices at the retail end very closely. IPGA, over the last few years, has been tracking the prices at the retail level vis-à-vis the prices at wholesale or ex-mill level. “We have found that the prices at retail level have traditionally higher than the wholesale/ex-mill rates by an average of Rs 50/- per kg. In current times, while the average wholesale prices of have been around Rs 95/- per kg for tur dal, Rs 110/- per kg for urad dal and Rs 92/- per kg for moong dal, the average retail prices have been Rs 130/- per kg for tur dal, Rs 160/- per kg for urad dal and Rs 115/- per kg for moong dal. However, anytime there is a discussion about high prices, the spotlight is placed on the traders and not the retailers. This needs to change,” he said.