Official procurement agencies Nafed and Food Corporation of India (FCI) have purchased 22.96 lakh tonne (lt) of chana, 3,230 tonnes of moong and 105 tonnes of urad during March-May period as against 4.11 lt of chana, 3,848 tonne of moong and 18 tonne of masoor in the year-ago period. The large quantity of chana procurement, after mandi prices dropped, has fuelled speculation that the government may soon resume distribution of it through ration shops, as it had done in 2020 after announcement of lockdown.

“Due to Covid, the government was able to offload its stock under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana by offering 1 kg chana to each family free of cost. Since selling it in open market may depress prices of other pulses, particularly during kharif harvesting period, the government will have to take a call after assessing output of kharif-grown pulses,” said a pulses industry official.

Low procurement

Against a sanctioned 14.08 lt of kharif pulses – tur, urad and moong, only 1.14 lt could be procured by the government, out of which the maximum (75,477 tonne) was moong. With regard to kharif oilseeds, except groundnut, no other crop could be procured. The groundnut procurement was only 1.51 lt against 16.76 lt sanctioned.

“Procurement of oilseeds and pulses depend on market prices as government agencies buy at minimum support price (MSP) whereas farmers tend to sell in open market when they get higher realisation. Our procurement is not a compulsion, irrespective of market prices,” said a Nafed official involved in procurement.

MP leads in procurement

While Madhya Pradesh has contributed maximum 7.69 lt of chana, other States which have procured this pulse variety include Maharashtra at 6.33 lt, Gujarat at 5.59 lt and Rajasthan at 1.2 lt.

Kharif pulses acreage down

The area under pulses this kharif season, which began with the onset of monsoon, is likely to decline as farmers in key growing States of Maharashtra and Karnataka are seen shifting to cotton, soyabean, maize and sugarcane on hope of better prices.

Stakeholders in the pulses sector say the acreage could drop by 5-15 per cent this kharif season compared with last year, on account of a bearish trend in the pulses complex including tur, moong and chana, while returns have been better for growers of other crops such as cotton and soyabean last year. Also, the Government’s liberal import policy for pulses to keep inflation under check is weighing on domestic prices and may influence plantings. Pulses were planted on about 142.37 lakh hectares (lh) in 2021 kharif season, about three lh more than the previous year.

The Government has set the kharif pulses production target of 10.55 mt for 2022-23 crop year (July-June) against actual output of 8.25 mt (third advance estimates) in 2021-22. The targeted kharif pulses production for the 2022 cropping season includes 4.55 mt of tur, 2.7 mt of urad, 2.5 mt of moong and 0.80 mt of other pulses.