The government has prepared a roadmap to achieve self-sufficiency in urad (black gram) and tur (pigeon peas) by 2027 for which in the upcoming kharif season, large-scale demonstration of best varieties in farmers’ fields is planned, said Union Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda.

Addressing the inaugural session of Pulses 24, a three-day global event organised by the Global Pulse Confederation (GPC) in cooperation with co-operative major Nafed in New Delhi, Munda said that the Agriculture Ministry has prepared an action plan in public-private-partnership (PPP) mode to ensure that the country becomes completely self-sufficient in pulses.

Lauding the efforts of the government in last 10 years by raising the pulses production from 16.32 million tonnes (mt) in 2015-16 to about 27 mt in 2022-23, the minister said, “In the upcoming kharif season, arrangements are being made for large-scale demonstrations of varieties and techniques in vast areas through cluster frontline demonstrations, enabling farmers to become familiar with new varieties and techniques and thereby increase the production of pulse crops.”

Private participation

He underscored the need to rapidly disseminate beneficial techniques such as high-protein chickpea varieties, climate-resilient varieties, and other such technologies, from seed to production, so as to create a value chain. At the same time, Munda pointed out that the private sector also bears a significant responsibility along with whatever efforts the government has been making.

“Through today’s programme, everyone is getting a unique platform where meaningful efforts will be made by formulating action plans in PPP mode. The goal is to make India self-reliant in pulse production by 2027 and to involve everyone in achieving the goal of leading research and utilisation of pulse crops worldwide,” he said.

The minister highlighted that over 1 lakh quintals of high-quality seeds of pulses have been produced in 150 centres set up since 2016-17. Initiatives like distribution of seed mini kits of newer varieties of pulses, production of quality seed, technological demonstration by KVKs have also been helpful in enhancing pulses production and productivity, he said and added that ICAR has developed and released for commercial cultivation 343 high-yielding pulses varieties and hybrids since 2014.

Munda also said that production of pulse crops is lower, even though their quality is higher than other grains, as producing pulses with high-quality protein requires considerable time and energy. As majority of Indian population is primarily vegetarian and gives special importance to pulses in their diet, Munda said the quality of food improves significantly with a plentiful supply of protein.

‘Superpower crop’

In his welcome address, Vijay Iyengar, first president of GPC who is of Indian origin, described pulses as “superpower crop” and highlighted that pulses in India pay a vital role in the ecosystem by fixing nitrogen, conserving water and thriving in arid conditions.

Iyengar also said that in India significant work is being done to unleash the incredible potential of pulses such as better seeds, intercropping and long-term remuneration policies for farmers. As a result, pulses production has increased in last few years from 17.3 mt to 26-27 mt, he said. He also mentioned about increased distribution of pulses through PMGKAY scheme and Bharat Dal. “India has set for itself the task of making the country self-sufficient in pulses by 2027,” he added.

Speaking on the occasion, Nafed’s managing director Ritesh Chauhan said that the co-operatives has purchased over 2 mt of pulses and oilseeds from farmers in last five years. Highlighting Nafed’s role in maintaining the country’s buffer stock of oilseeds and pulses on behalf of government, Chauhan said the agency has also been tasked to register farmers on a portal and procure the crops at an assured price (MSP) or even higher depending on the market rates.

An Agriculture Ministry official claimed that there are some 11 million hectare of fallow area available in the country which have potential to grow pulses.