Pulse policy underway to reduce imports and boost local production

“Farmers are also watching imports closely before making a decision on planting,” said a major pulse processor.

In order to ensure adequate national availability of pulses, the government is developing a comprehensive long-term policy, which will focus on increasing production, improving processing technologies to reduce post-harvest losses and ensure the on-farm supply by processors.

The policy would also seek to stabilize the import tariff regime so that frequent changes in the tariff structure do not impact domestic production while ensuring that the landed cost of imported pulses is around the price of minimum support (MSP) announced by the government.

India covers about 10% of its domestic pulse consumption through imports. For the 2021-22 cropping season, domestic production of pulses is estimated at 26.96 million tonnes (mt), while about 2 mt of pulse import is expected for the current fiscal year.

In anticipation of the domestic production shortfall in May 2021, India had placed the import of tur, urad and moong pulse varieties under an “open” category from an earlier “restricted” category until 31 March 2022. However, on February 12, 2022, moong was put on the “restricted” list with immediate effect.

Traders told FE that such frequent policy changes disrupt value chains because for importing pulses, long-term contracts are made before actual shipments. “Farmers are also watching imports closely before making a decision on planting,” said a major pulse processor.

As part of policy development, the Department of Consumer Affairs hosted an interaction with major pulse processors on Thursday to explore opportunities to facilitate direct purchase from farmers and support the upgrading of processing plants. legumes to reduce post-harvest losses.

Official sources said financial incentives for pulse processing units are also being discussed. In addition, the facilitation of direct purchase from pulse growers would be explored in coordination with States. Currently, states such as Maharashtra and Karnataka provide electronic registration to traders or processors for direct farm gate purchase.

“Buying directly from farmers in their field ensures that transit losses are reduced and upgrading technology could improve efficiency to some extent,” said Nitin Kalantry, MD, Kalantry Food Products, a processor of pulses based in Latur, Maharashtra.

According to the report of the Central Institute of Post-harvest Engineering and Technology, the pre- and post-harvest losses in the case of various varieties of pulses vary between 4.3% and 6.1%.

“If we could not reduce the losses, the domestic availability of pulses will thus improve the dependence on imports,” said a senior official.

To boost domestic supplies, India signed a memorandum of understanding with Mozambique to import 2 lakh tonnes of tur or arhar per year for five years when retail tur prices soared to Rs 200 per kg in 2016. This MoU was extended for five years in September 2021. In 2021, India entered into MoUs with Malawi and Myanmar for the import of 50,000 tons and 1,00,000 tower tons per year, respectively, until 2025.

India also imports lentils (masur) from Canada and Australia to increase domestic supply. The country is in talks with Russia and Kazakhstan for lentil imports.

“Developing innovative methods of processing pulses can increase the competitiveness of the industry, thereby increasing domestic supply,” said Harsha Rai, director of Mayur Global Corporation, a global brokerage firm.

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