Prime Minister Narendra Modi took off early Thursday for a five-day tour of Africa. The PM will be visiting Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya with a focus on maritime security, trade and investment, hydrocarbons and agriculture and food.
Mozambique was the Prime Minister’s first destination, from where he will travel to South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya. India and Mozambique were in the process of negotiating a contract that would allow India to import pulses from the African nation on a government-to-government basis. India is currently facing acute pulses shortage domestically. A shortage that drove pulses prices through the roof putting it out of the reach of the common man. Pulses are known to be the Indian household favourite. So the pressure on the central government to rein in prices has been increasing steadily.
Import and contract farming emerged as viable alternatives for the Asian nation. To explore import options, two high-level delegations left for Mozambique and Myanmar last month. The Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced that India would build 8 lakh tonnes buffer stock. The country previously only stocked 1.5 lakh tonnes of pulses. There were also reports that the country would lease land in Mozambique to produce pulses. The plan has allegedly been scrapped on the basis that it was a politically sensitive issue.
Instead, the Asian nation has decided to sign a long term MoU to import pulses from Mozambique. The MoU was signed by Narendra Modi in Mozambique on Thursday. As per the MoU, Mozambique will produce Indian varieties of pulses such as arhar and urad. India will be importing 1-2 lakh tonnes of pulses by 2020 as per this MoU. The government hopes that the quantity is sufficient to meet India’s spiralling demand for pulses. “The MoU will augment domestic availability of pulses in India and thereby stabilise its prices,” said a government release.
Going by the MoU, India will build a cooperative farming model in Mozambique by identifying and choosing a network of farmers who will be provided with seeds and other improvements. The pulses produced by this network of farmers will be procured at the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of the same produce in India.
Mozambique revealed that it was ready to help India ensure sufficient supply of pulses on the grounds that the Asian nation will purchase the entire quantity of pulses grown there.
In other news, Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, yesterday pegged India’s pulses output at 20 mt in 2016-17. An 18% increase.
“Because of persistent increase in MSPs, there is a chance that pulses production in 2016-17 might be somewhere around 20 mt, around 3 mt more than the current rate,” Paswan said.