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Pulse growers continue to suffer low prices for the second year in a row. This is sure to impact planting intentions for the upcoming kharif crop. It is common knowledge that pulses are among the most economically priced vegetable protein. Pulses are a basic ingredient of diet for a vast majority of the population and are a perfect mix of biological value when used with cereals. No wonder, Indians typically eat dal-roti or dal-chawal.

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It is ironical that policy-makers have been busy in the last several months with a series of interventions that simply results in choking supplies in the vain hope that farm-gate prices will rise closer to MSP, if not exceed it; and it has not worked.

It is unfortunate that New Delhi has failed to recognise another aspect of managing the market that is the demand side. Known for their relatively high protein content and their particular ability to take nitrogen and fix it in soils, pulses also a fertile building block for other crops as well.

"Domestic prices of most pulses such as tur, moong and chana, which are being currently harvested, are ruling below the MSP levels, leading to continuing farmer unrest in the growing areas. 

In August 2017, the government restricted import of tur, moong and urad. The free import of tur, moong and urad has been restricted by imposing quota of 2 million tonne import on tur and 3 million tonne on moong and urad taken together.

Export of pulses, which was not allowed for more than a decade, was also freed up last year. However, both measures did not help much to support domestic prices. 


According to government estimates, India imported 4.7 million tonnes of pulses . "We have huge stock of pulses with the government as well as the traders in the country. If we continue to import pulses, it will be difficult for farmers to get MSP," said Aggarwal. 

"This year’s budget is profarmer and it is now up to us to implement it successfully.

We will ensure farmers get MSP for crops. There are ample storage facilities with the state's warehousing corporations to store grain, coarse cereals and others," Saini said. “MSP of coarse cereals — bajra, jowar and maize — was .`1,425-1,725 a quintal.

Now, with the government fixing the support price at 1.5 times the input cost for kharif crop, farmers will get good prices,"

The above quotes were not found successful in present situations.It is unfortunate that New Delhi has failed to recognise another aspect of managing the market that is the demand side.

It has failed to take steps to boost consumption demand. Instead of gloating over self-proclaimed ‘self-sufficiency’ in pulses (which is nothing but a chimera), the government ought to focus on serving the demand side.

An ideal and common sense approach to boost pulses consumption is by including the legume in the Public Distribution System or under National Food Security Act. Supply of even one kilogram of pulses per family per month in addition to rice and wheat will go a long way in advancing nutrition security.

Calorie and protein security should go together; and its responsibility must be assumed by the Centre. Relying on State governments’ choice to advance nutrition security is unlikely to result in tangible outcomes, if experience is any guide.

The immediate priority is to reduce burdensome inventory with various stakeholders (growers, government, traders). Government agencies themselves are reportedly holding well over a million tonnes of pulses incurring huge carrying costs. These need to be liquidated.

At the same time, procurement of pulses deserves to be strengthened. Procurement efforts of last two years have left much to be desired. For a government that mops up as much as 50-60 million tonnes of wheat and rice, handling a few million tonnes of pulses should not be formidable challenge. It is simply that there is no ‘political will’ to address the pulses crisis comprehensively.

 

Sangeeta Soi

Krishi Jagran/New Delhi

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