Rajendra Jadhav / Reuters
Mumbai: A shortfall in winter pulses output and rising demand are likely to force India to import 3.5 million tonnes of pulses in 2008-09 from a tight global market at higher prices, industry officials said.
India, the world’s biggest producer, consumer and importer of pulses, battling rising prices, has allowed duty-free import and banned export of the nutritious commodity.
“Deficiency in rains and a cold wave have affected winter pulses. This will certainly increase dependency on import....we would import around 3.5 million tonnes next year,” said K.C. Bhartiya, president, Pulses Importers’ Association of India.
Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh,the main pulses producers, have not received adequate rainfall, which may have an adverse effect on output, he said.
India’s winter, or rabi season, pulses output is likely to fall 8.82% to 8.57 million tonnes in 2007-08, against 9.4 million tonnes a year earlier, the government said earlier this month.
In 2007-08, industry estimates the country’s pulses import to be around 3 million tonnes, from 2.25 million tonnes in 2006-07.
Pulses output in India is estimated at 14.34 million tonnes in 2007-08, against 14.2 million tonnes a year earlier.
“The government is heading towards a general election next year. So it may ask public sector units to import more to cap prices,” said Ravi Bhushan, an analyst at ICICI Direct.
The country is heading for elections in 2009 and at least 10 states will elect new assemblies in 2008.
In April 2007 the federal government said it planned to import 1.5 million tonnes of pulses through state run-agencies for 2007-08. Earlier, private traders were the main importers.
“Internationally, prices are very high. So domestic prices will remain firm despite imports,” Sharad Maru, president of Grains, Rice and Oilseeds Merchants Association, said.
India mainly imports pulses from Myanmar, Australia, Canada and the United States.
Yellow peas account for more than half the total imports.
“Yellow pea is no more a cheap commodity. Its prices have almost doubled in last one year,” said a Mumbai-based importer, who declined to be named.
The import price of yellow peas in Mumbai port stands at $515 per tonne, from $330 a year ago, traders said.
“Pakistan, Bangladesh and Gulf countries are also buying in the global market where supply is restricted. It is keeping prices firm,” said Prem Kogta, a dal-miller based in Jalgaon, Maharashtra.
“Demand is increasing every year with rising prosperity. But production is not maintaining that pace,” Bhartiya said.