India to import 3 mln tonnes of pulses in 2020-21

Import could lower prices of domestic pulses, increasing losses to farmers

By Jitendra
Published: Wednesday 01 April 2020
Grocery shops selling pulses in Delhi Photo: Agnimirh Basu

India will import approximately three million tonnes (mt) of pulses in the year 2020-21, a move that could lower the prices of homegrown pulses and increase losses of farmers across the country.

The centre fixed an import quota of 1.34 mt on pulses for the current fiscal year, according to a circular issued on March 28, 2020.

A quota of 0.4 mt was fixed for the import of arhar (pigeon peas), while 0.15 mt was fixed for the import of moong and peas, according to the circular.

A quota of 0.4 mt on urad pulses and 0.24 mt of pulses through government to government agreements was fixed in mid March.

“Private parties will import other pulses like masoor (red lentils), rajma (red kidney beans) and kabuli chana (white chickpea),” said Bimal Kothari, a member of trade body India Pulses and Grains Association (IPGA).

A production target of 26.30 mt for pulses was set by the Union government for the year 2019-20.

The actual production would be reduced by 10 per cent because of unseasonal rain and a subsequent reduction in the area of land being cultivated for pulses, the IPGA said in January.

Approximately 3 mt of imported pulses would be needed to meet the shortfall in the current fiscal year, as domestic consumption of pulses is at 25 mt, according to the IPGA.

Approximately 1 mt per year of red lentils are imported by private parties, while 0.2 mt of pulses — including red kidney beans and white chickpea — are imported through an open general licence (OGL).

There is no restriction on the amount of imports through OGL.

Grains imported from 2015 to 2020
Years Quantity (in mmt)
2019-20(April-January) 2.63
2018-19 2.53
2017-18 5.6
2016-17 6.6
2015-16 5.8
Source: APEDA

An import quota was earlier fixed at 0.65 mt for 2019-20, but was later revised to 1.35 mt by the centre.

The country, however, ended up importing around 2.63 mt till January 2020.

The government imported 2.53 mt after fixing a quota of 0.5 mt in 2018-19, according to Surendra Agarwal, president of the All India Dal Mill Association based out of Madhya Pradesh’s Indore.

India had allowed the duty-free import of pulses after a drought in 2014 and 2015. India imported a record 6.6 mt of pulses in 2016-17, sending domestic prices crashing.

The centre started fixing quotas from 2018 to stop prices from crashing further,

The current nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has halted activities in pulse mills.

Agarwal wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to urge the centre to allow the transport of pulses and resume activities, to address supply problems.

“There are many trucks at the borders of different states that should be allowed to reach out mills, otherwise the country could face problems in supply of pulses,” Agarwal told Down to Earth.

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