Pulse holding rule may last till end Dec with tighter limit

By Puja Das

The Centre plans to tighten the stockholding limit on tur (pigeon pea) and urad (black gram) pulses and extend it by two months in a bid to check prices and boost domestic supplies until the arrival of fresh stocks.The government also plans to purchase farmers’ produce as well as imported masur (lentil) from the domestic market under the price stabilization fund (PSF) scheme, two senior officials said.The government slapped limits on the stocks of tur and urad dal in June to curb hoarding and speculation amid soaring prices. Stock limits are in place on a range of entities such as wholesalers, retailers, millers and importers until 31 October.We are looking at extending the period for holding limits on the stocks of tur and urad dal and reducing the permitted holding limit because it is unlikely that by 31 October prices will come down and the fresh Kharif crops will hit the market,” one of the officials said.“The imported stock prices are also hovering higher than the previous year. Kharif sowing has not been as good as it was anticipated to be. Things are unlikely to improve. So, we will have to extend it beyond 31 October.”While farmer-produced tur prices in the key mandis of Maharashtra and Karnataka are ₹10,000-11,7000 a quintal, urad prices are at ₹8,500-9,000 per quintal, according to spot traders. The minimum support price of both these pulses was fixed at ₹ 6,600 for the 2022-23 Kharif marketing season.As far as cultivation of these crops is concerned, the area under tur had dipped 2.6% to 4.3 million hectares and that under urad declined 0.7% to 3.2 million hectares till 15 September.“If the proposal gets through, the stock-holding limit may be extended till the end of December. The stock limit for wholesalers could be reduced to 50 tonnes for each of the pulses. While big chain retailers may be allowed to stock 5 tonnes at each outlet and 50 tonnes at depots, millers will likely be constrained to the greater of the previous month’s production or 10% of their annual capacity.In the case of small retailers and importers, there may not be any changes,” the other government official said. “However, the figures cannot be said with certainty.”The department has proposed this to the higher authorities and a final call will be taken by them,” the official informed.At present, there’s a ceiling of 200 tonnes per pulse for wholesalers and 5 tonnes for retailers. Big-chain retailers are permitted 5 tonnes at each outlet and a maximum of 200 tonnes in total. Millers are allowed to stock “the greater of the previous three months’ production” or 25% of their annual capacity.Importers are prohibited from keeping imported stocks for more than 30 days post-customs clearance.For masur dal, the Centre hasn’t been able to purchase any imported stock from the domestic market since the first tender was floated on 23 August, due to high prices quoted by companies.Therefore, it is planning to boost the buffer stock by floating tenders to purchase both imported and domestic crops from the open market. The government currently has around 195,000 tonnes of masur and 3.7 million tonnes of total pulses in its central pool.“Since the price had been reasonable and the domestic procurement season was over in July, we decided to top up our buffer stock and we started off issuing tenders to procure the imported stock. However, traders deliberately increased the market prices of masur, making it difficult for us to purchase the imported stock from the domestic market. Once we cancelled the tenders, market prices started falling. Now, we want to test the water again, and the plan is to procure any stock that is available,” the first official revealed.Queries sent to the consumer affairs, food and public distribution and agriculture ministries remained unanswered.

This article has been republished from The Mint.

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