By : Dheeraj Upadhyay
The centre is finding itself in a catch-22 situation when it comes to checking the rising prices of pulses is concerned. After trying hard for three years by promoting and incentivising farmers to produce more pulses; govt has now tweaked its pulses import policy and allowed free import of urad, moong and tur just before the kharif sowing season, to keep the retail prices in check.
Allowing the pulses imports is a double whammy for the Centre, at one hand the current prices of pulses gives validation to the centre’s proposed farm bills, where farmers are free to sell their produce above minimum support price (MSP) outside mandis, in the open market as per the market-determined price. But on the other hand, if the Govt fails to check the skyrocketing pulse prices, then it has to face the common men’s ire, who are already finding it tough to make their ends meet in the Covid pandemic.
However, the govt had put the pulses imports under a non-restricted list, which soared in the past 2-3 weeks due to low availability of stocks with traders. The key highlight of the policy is that all the import consignments need to be cleared before November 30 and no imports will be allowed after that, as per the official notification.
According to the traders, a strict time frame was laid down by the govt just to ensure that neither the inflation due to the spiralling prices hurt the consumers nor the domestic markets get crashed under the weight of imports before the new kharif arrival of tur, moong and urad around late December.
The pulses import decision by Govt is backed by the rising prices of the said pulses across the country. In the past few weeks, tur prices in retail markets have ruling over Rs 7,000 per quintal, which is nearly Rs 1,000 high than its 2020-21 MSP of Rs 6,000 per quintal. While the market prices of moong are also near its MSP of Rs 7,196 per quintal. But, the urad prices are ruling even higher, ranging between Rs 8,000- 8500 per quintal, while the MSP for urad is Rs 6,000 per quintal for the 2020-21 season.
The procurement of these three varieties of pulses by state agencies is almost over and farmers aren’t left with much stock, so it can be said that the decision to open imports should not have much impact on the farmer’s income,” a senior government official said.
Meanwhile, there are some concerns from growers that the imports will dampen the sowing sentiments, but previous years data suggests that we have steadily produced more pulses in the past few years since 2007-2008 and we have grown additional pulses of around 15-16 tonnes annually to reach over 24 million tonnes till 2020-21, a jump of over 60 per cent,” the official further added.
He also emphasised that since the official notification clearly pointed that the said imports of all the three types of pulses had to be completed by November 30. That is about a month ahead of kharif arrival season.
However, we have got mixed response but the majority of the traders and exporters of pulses have welcomed the move, while few have termed it as detrimental to the interest of farmers in the coming season.
Jitu Bheda, chairman of the Indian Pulses and Grains Association (IPGA) welcomed the Centre’s timely intervention to allow the free import of pulses. He said though the window is smaller for import amid pandemic, the free import policy would enable importers to quickly import a minimum of 250,000 tonnes of tur, 150,000 tonnes of urad and 50,000-75,000 tonnes of moong from Africa, Myanmar and the neighbouring nations to make up for the shortage.
He said IPGA welcomes this move wholeheartedly as this has been done while keeping farmers’ interests in mind but it will also help in checking the rising pulse prices. It’s a prompt decision by the government, especially during the current challenging times,” Bheda said.