Agri Business

Idli, dosas could get pricier as Myanmar unrest may affect urad imports

Vishwanath Kulkarni Bengaluru | Updated on March 07, 2021

Urad prices have gone up sharply over the past two months   -  P_V_SIVAKUMAR

The pulses supply chain in Myanmar, the second-largest producer of pulses after India, had already been disrupted due to the political unrest

Import of urad (black gram or black matpe) into the country could be affected this year following the political unrest in Myanmar.

The imports of urad, used in food items such as idli, dosa and pappad, are crucial to bridge the demand-supply gap of the pulses in the country. Thus, it could result in higher prices for the food items that are regular in the country, particularly in south India.

Last week, the Centre permitted import of 4 lakh tonnes of urad for 2021-22 to bridge the supply shortage as the domestic production during the Kharif season was affected by erratic and unseasonal rains.

As per the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare second advance estimates, urad production is estimated at 2.45 million tonnes, higher than the previous year’s final estimates of 2.08 million tonnes.

“The import quota was on expected lines. However, due to the prevailing political unrest in Myanmar, the shipments won’t be smooth. Definitely, we will see some hiccups in imports this year,” said Bimal Kothari, Vice Chairman, Indian Pulses and Grains Association (IPGA), the apex trade body.

The pulses supply chain in Myanmar, the second-largest producer of pulses after India, had already been disrupted due to the political unrest.

“In Myanmar, the crop is not coming into the market due to the disturbance. Moreover, shipping companies will not call in their ships to countries facing unrest. It won’t be a cakewalk to import this year,” said Kothari, who imports pulses.

Vivek Agarwal of JLV Agro, a commodity brokerage and indenting firm, said shipments from Myanmar have already been impacted due to the unrest and cargoes of roughly around 50,000 tonnes, from the previous year’s quota, are stuck in various places in that country. “Cargoes are stuck as the ships are unable to move due to the prevailing situation in Myanmar,” Agarwal said.

On Saturday, shipping line Maersk announced a temporary suspension of its operations in Myanmar from March 8-14. A German container line has suspected import bookings to Myanmar a few days ago, while a French container line CMA CGM has suspended freight payments in Myanmar.

In addition to the prevailing political situation, shrinkage in supplies in Myanmar would also have an impact on Indian urad imports, said Rahul Chauhan, Managing Director, IGrain India.

“The curbs imposed by the Government on urad imports three years ago hit hard the Myanmar farmers, who faced problems in selling their crop then. However, with a pickup in Chinese demand for moong (mung), there is some shift in crop preference among Myanmar farmers. Some urad and tur farmers have shifted to moong there. The production of moong is seen almost doubling from three lakh tonnes to about six lakh tonnes in Myanmar this year ,” Chauhan said.

 

Urad prices have been ruling higher than the MSP level of Rs 6,000 for some time now. Chauhan said urad prices are expected to stay firm and move up further till the next crop hits the markets around September on tightening supplies. The trade also expects prices to rule firm, depending on how the Myanmar situation evolves in the days ahead.

Domestic urad prices in markets of Andhra Pradesh, where currently some arrivals are taking place are hovering at Rs 7,600 per quintal, while imported urad is ruling at Rs 7,300-7,400 in Chennai and Mumbai for the fair average quality (FAQ), Agarwal said. For special quality urad, prices are around Rs 7,900 in Chennai.

Retail prices of urad dal are hovering around Rs 127-128 per kg across various consuming markets such as Mumbai and Chennai, according to the retail prices monitored by the Department of Consumer Affairs.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture data, modal prices of urad ranged between Rs 4,899-6,969 per quintal on Friday in various markets of Villupuram district in Tamil Nadu.

According to trade estimates, urad consumption in India ranges between 2.2-3 million tonnes. After chana and tur, urad is the third-widely consumed pulses variety in the country. “The consumption of pulses, in general, has gone up due to covid,” Chauhan said.

Consumption of urad is higher in the southern parts of the country, where urad dal is used for as idly and dosa regularly.

Production of urad, which touched a record of 3.49 million tonnes during 2017-18, has declined in the past two years on erratic weather hitting the crop in States such as Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra among others.

“In addition to the production loss, the quality of the produce harvested is also poor,” Chauhan said.

India allowed imports of four lakh tonnes of urad during 2020-21, of which nearly 3.78 lakh tonne has been imported into the country till January, Chauhan said adding there were no shipments in February-March. In 2019-20, India imported 3.21 lakh tonnes.

Published on March 07, 2021

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