India’s open import policy sans any curbs is expected to encourage growers of pulses such as tur (arhar or pigeon pea) and urad (black matpe) in major producing countries such as Myanmar and East Africa to plant more in the upcoming planting seasons, trade experts said.

Anticipating a shortfall in tur and urad output due to erratic weather, the Centre recently announced the extension of the duty-free import policy for these two pulses till March 31, 2024.

President of Overseas Agro Traders Association (OATA), Myanmar, Shyam Narsaria, told a webinar on the outlook for tur and urad, that the timely extension of the policy to allow imports without any duty and restrictions will help farmers in Myanmar and Africa to plan their sowings to meet the Indian demand.

Crop outlook lowered

Rohit Kumar Singh, Secretary, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, said the production of tur during the kharif 2022-23 season is likely to be at around 32-33 lakh tonnes (lt), lower than first advance estimates of 38.9 lt, due to the impact of excess rains and the wilt disease in the key-producing regions of Karnataka and southern Maharashtra. Last year, tur output stood at 43.4 lt.

Singh said the lower output would lead to higher imports of around 10 lakh tonnes this year, which will be mainly from East Africa and Myanmar. “Since the sowing season begins there, we wanted to provide some sort of a comfort level for growers in East African countries that there is a market going to be available in India,” Singh said.

Negligible volume

Mahesh Ghedia, Director of Africa-based Bajrang International Group, said in terms of total volume, the pulses exports from Africa is negligible compared to other major producers. Total pulses export out of Africa is around 1-1.5 million tonnes, which includes 4-5 lt of tur, 3-4 lt of chick pea and 1.5-2 lt of green gram.

Ghedia said compared to developed nations, the African pulses are produced by smallholders using their conventional method of growing and harvesting and have managed to maintain their importance in the Indian market even though volumes are small.

“We recommend that pigeon pea/tur should be permanently removed from the restricted commodity items list as it does not compete with Indian farmers in any manner, nor that they can double/triple production overnight unlike developed countries. Hence, the Government should not have any fear with regard to African imports into India and competition with Indian farmers.” Ghedia said.

Manoj Chowdhary, Country Head for SunImpex International Foods LLC, Myanmar, said consistent policy from India will help consistent production in Myanmar, which caters to the Indian demand in a big way. Tur production during 2023 in Myanmar is estimated to about 22 per cent more at 2.80 lt during 2023, from previous year’s 2.30 lt.

Manohar Bhojwani, CEO, Diet Foods International said India has imported about 4.32 lt of tur till November in 2022-23 as compared to 8.40 lt during 2021-22. Myanmar accounts for about 60 per cent of India’s tur imports, followed by Mozambique at 20 per cent, Sudan 11 per cent, Tanzania at 4 per cent and Malawi at 3 per cent.