Pulses have been making headlines this year rampantly. Not because 2016 is the International Year of Pulses. It’s all due to the fact that the biggest consumer of pulses, India, seems unable to meet domestic demand. Back-to-back drought has taken its toll on Indian farmers and their farms. Pulses are being sold for Rs 200 a kg. Being a household favourite, the price rise is definitely not a welcome development. Tomatoes and potatoes have also become costlier in the country.
Given the prevailing prices and inadequate supply of pulses domestically, India has been in talks with countries such as Myanmar and others to create a buffer stock of up to eight lakh tonnes, similar to wheat and rice. This was announced by the Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday. The buffer limit for pulses was previously only 1.5 lakh tonnes. The government has also announced that farmers producing pulses will receive a bonus that is above the MSP of pulses to encourage domestic production.
“The government decided we will initially have 1 lakh tonnes of buffer stock both by procuring from farmers and by importing. Now that buffer stock limit has been enhanced. We will take it gradually, not immediately to 8 lakh tonnes,” Sitharaman told members of the Indian Women’s Press Dorps in Delhi.
“So, Myanmar can supply us a few… In all probability we will be having a government-to-government import of pulses from Myanmar… the agreement will be signed soon. Mozambique, Malawi are countries we are having pulses-related talks,” she said.
“As it is pulses can be imported by private traders without restriction. Unfortunately last year, because of speculation there was lot of price rise that was unwarranted,” the minister added.
Elaborating on the current pulses shortage crisis, she pointed out that India has been importing for decades as it can only produce 17 lakh tonnes yearly. Domestic consumption annually though is 23 lakh tonnes.
“We are already in talks with these countries and hope to make government-to-government arrangements so that whenever market prices of pulses rise, the government is able to infuse its stocks in the market to stabilise the prices,” she added.