By Sandip Das
The government aims to curb the spike in pulses inflation through several measures including abolition of import duties on certain varieties, long-term import commitments, imposition of stock holding limits and sale of surplus stocks in the open market.
“We want to ensure that there are adequate supplies of pulses in the coming festive months from domestic arrivals and imports,” Rohit Kumar Singh, Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs told FE.
Retail inflation in ‘pulses and products’ category in July was 13.27% and was due to higher inflation in arhar (34.05%), moong (9.07%) and urad (7.85%) varieties of pulses. The pulses inflation had hit double digits in June at 10.53%.
Earlier this week, the consumer affairs department had asked traders and importers to mandatorily disclose stocks of masur (lentils) and a suitable action would be taken under the essential commodities act if stocks are not declared.
Singh said when imports of lentils from Canada and tur (arhar) varieties of pulses from African countries have increased, few players are trying to ‘manipulate’ the market against consumers’ interest.
“Through imports and imposition of stock holdings limits, we would like to ensure that pulses are available at reasonable prices,” Singh said.
India imports lentils largely from Canada and Australia as domestic production is unable to match rising consumption of pulses.
India signed an memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Mozambique for import of 0.2 million tonne (MT) of arhar annually for five years when the retail prices of tur skyrocketed to Rs 200 a kg in 2016. This MoU was extended for another five years in September 2021.
In 2021, India entered into MoUs with Malawi and Myanmar for the import of 50,000 tonne and 0.1 MT of tur per annum, respectively, till 2025.
The import duty on tur, urad and masur has been abolished to improve domestic stocks. India has removed retaliatory additional duty imposed on import of chickpeas (10%) and lentils (20%) imposed from the United States.
The country has been largely import dependent for three varieties of pulses – lentils, tur (pigeon pea) and urad (black gram).
In May, the government had imposed limits on the stocks of tur and urad dal till October 31.
Meanwhile, the government is likely to impose stock holding limits on chana (gram) due to the spike in prices of key pulse variety in the last one month.
The government has also started to sell chana in the open market from its buffer stock held with farmers cooperative Nafed. Currently Nafed has about 2.8 MT of chana stock and it already has around 0.6 MT in the open market.
Out of a record pulses production of 27.5 million tonne (MT) in 2022-23 crop year (July-June), chana (gram) has a share of 50%.
The country has been self-sufficient in chana and moong varieties of pulses and imports about 15% of the total pulses consumption.
This article has been republished from The Financial Express