The spiralling prices of pulses and acute shortage have compelled the Indian government to consider other alternatives besides importing. Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday at a press conference announced that the government will be building 8 lakh tonnes pulses buffer stock, along the lines of rice and wheat. The limit was only 1.5 lakh tonnes a year ago. The hike is five times over.
Media reports last week hinted that the government was looking to lease land overseas in order to cultivate pulses besides also exploring economical import options. A government delegation, a high level one, was sent to Mozambique and Malaysia to explore the same. The delegation headed by Consumer Affairs Secretary Hem Pande will gauge short-term and long-term measures regarding the import of pulses to keep with the demand back home.
“The delegation consisting of senior officials from the Ministries of Commerce, Agriculture and the Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation of India (MMTC) will explore both short-term and long-term measures to import pulses from Mozambique on government to government basis,” a statement from the union Food and Consumer Affairs Ministry said here.
Another high-level delegation is already in Myanmar to explore the import of pulses, the statement continued. Myanmar has about 50,000 tonnes of tur and talks with the south-east Asian country is in advance stages. The country which lacks infrastructure and public trade agencies unlike India which has MMTC and STC is wary of committing.
The government is keen on entering into government-to-government contract with countries such as Myanmar to build buffer stock of the much in demand pulses.
The visit to Mozambique is more important compared to the delegation visit to Myanmar as the delegation will analyse the possibility of contract farming of pulses in Mozambique as well as other African countries.
“The farming remains highly unorganised in Mozambique and other African countries like Tanzania. Agriculture is also done at a very small scale compared to the land available, hence the team can explore the option to take land for contract farming with the involvement of private players,” a Food Ministry source revealed.
Tur, Ahar and a few other pulses grown in several African countries are similar to the Indian varieties. The largest producer and consumer of pulses, India imported 5.5 million tonnes of pulses last fiscal. A record for the nation. Despite which the prices couldn’t be checked. Ever increasing demand to be blamed.
The central government has issued a directive to states instructing them to purchase pulses from buffer stock at a subsidised rate of Rs 66 per kg and then sell for Rs 120 a kg in retail markets.