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How India is building self-reliance in pulses

According to agriculture ministry data, India produced 3.3 mt of tur and 1.5 mt of masur in the last season ended June. (Mint)
According to agriculture ministry data, India produced 3.3 mt of tur and 1.5 mt of masur in the last season ended June. (Mint)

Summary

  • Nafed to encourage pulses farming, assure purchases in scheme

The Union government is crafting a scheme to boost domestic production of pulses with a focus on select states, at a time when erratic weather and more remunerative crops have prompted many farmers to shift away from the kitchen staples.

The Bharat Dal Utpadan Swavlamban Abhiyan, or the Indian mission for self-sufficiency in pulse production, will aim to lift production, meet buffer norms and end import dependency, a government official aware of the plan said. The scheme, which will debut at a time of falling production and rising imports of pulses, will focus primarily on Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Telangana and Karnataka.

Graphic: Mint
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Graphic: Mint

The government has decided to appoint the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (Nafed) as the primary implementing agency for the scheme, the official cited above said on condition of anonymity. The agency may pre-register farmers to buy their entire produce, in an attempt to raise tur output by 1.2 million tonnes (mt) and masur output by 500,000 tonnes. Currently, the buffer requirement for tur is 1 mt and for masur is 500,000 tonnes; the government aims to achieve buffer stocks of 800,000 tonnes of tur and 400,000 tonnes of masur once the scheme is established, the official said.

“The government believes that pulses’ growers are fully capable of replicating the production reported in 2016-17 for tur and further increasing the production of masur, given that they are adequately supported with the assured purchase of crops at MSP (minimum support price) or market rate, whichever is higher, and assured risk mitigation in case of crop damages due to weather conditions through the Fasal Bima Yojana. Support of quality input supply, including high-yielding seed, credit and local purchase through primary agricultural societies and storage at the Gramin Bhandaran points, will surely encourage farmers to enhance production," the official said.

The new scheme which will be implemented by the agriculture ministry will integrate elements of the existing Price Support Scheme (PSS) and the Price Stabilisation Fund (PSF). At present, under the PSS, the agriculture ministry procures crops at MSP to support farmers when prices fall, whereas under PSF, the Department of Consumer Affairs purchases pulses and vegetables at the MSP or market price for buffer stocks for later use in market interventions.

The official added that funds available with the PSS and the PSF will be utilized to make payments to farmers and to meet procurement and storage expenses. The stocks required for buffer will separately be earmarked and released on the instructions of the consumer affairs department, and the funds requirement could be approximately 5,600 crore to procure 800,000 tonnes at the MSP of 7,000 per quintal and 2,400 crore for 400,000 tonnes of masur at 6,000 a quintal MSP. However, the procurement expenses may be over and above this, the official added.

According to agriculture ministry data, India produced 3.3 mt of tur and 1.5 mt of masur in the last season ended June, against the previous year’s 4.2 mt and 1.3 mt, respectively. However, domestic demand for tur and masur stand at 4.4 mt and 2.4 mt, respectively. The next year may be worse: In the first advance estimate for the 2023-24 crop year, the production of total kharif pulses is pegged lower at 7.1 mt compared with the previous year’s 7.8 mt due to unfavourable climatic conditions and farmers switching to crops such as cotton and soybean, which are more remunerative and have shorter gestation periods.

Falling output and rising imports of pulses poses a threat to food security and threaten farmers’ livelihoods in the backdrop of climate change, said Devan Chandrasekharan, managing director of Fuselage Innovations, an agritech company. “Addressing climate change entirely may be an insurmountable task, but implementing targeted interventions can pave the way for solutions. While traditional soil-based farming methods have been effective, incorporating technology-backed agricultural practices such as soil and leaf-based crop monitoring, along with targeted crop protection, can provide solutions to mitigate the impact of post-natural calamities," Chandrasekharan added.

India imported 2.26 mt of lentils, tur and urad during January-October against the previous year’s 1.4 mt. While lentil imports were the highest among all pulses at 1.1 mt, imports of tur and urad were at 686,073 tonnes and 453,529 tonnes, respectively. Despite some improvement since 2011, the gap between the demand and supply of pulses has widened, necessitating annual imports of 2-2.5 mt in the past few years.

Queries sent to the agriculture ministry and consumer affairs department remained unanswered.

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