India’s pulses imports almost doubled to $3.74 billion during the 2023-24 fiscal compared with the previous year after government removed curbs to boost supplies and contain price rise. This followed a shortfall in the domestic output due to erratic climate conditions in the key producing regions.

In dollar value terms, pulses imports registered a 93 per cent growth at $3.74 billion over previous year’s $1.94 billion. In rupee terms, imports were up 97 per cent at ₹31,071 crore during 2023-24 over ₹15,780 crore in the year-ago period, as per official estimates.

However, the official figures for the import quantity are yet to be disclosed for 2023-24. Based on the port arrival data, IGrain India’s Rahul Chauhan estimates the pulses imports to be over 45 lakh tonnes (lt) against 24.5 lt a year ago.

Hiking domestic supply

This surge in imports of pulses is due to record purchase of masur (lentils) and increase in shipments of yellow peas. The Government has allowed duty free imports of yellow peas till June 30 this year to boost the domestic supplies of pulses. Also, the duty free imports of tur and urad has been extended till March 31, 2025, to help control inflation and increase domestic supply.

Chauhan said the higher prices of pulses such as tur and urad at origins in Myanmar and West Africa could have contributed to the record import value during 2023-24. Chauhan said lentil imports would have likely exceeded a record 16.11 lt during 2023-24 compared with 8.58 lt a year ago. Imports of urad or black matpe are seen at around 6.16 lt during 2023-24 against 5.24 lt a year ago. However, tur imports are likely to be around 7.70 lt, lower than 8.95 lt a year ago.

The duty free yellow pea imports, which were allowed from December last year, are expected to be around 12.75 lt, till March 2024. Import of other pulses varieties that registered an increase include chana at 1.48 lt (59,255 tonnes in previous year), rajma at 1.28 lt (82,736 tonnes) and cow pea at 38,034 tonnes (33,465 tonnes).

India’s pulses imports had previously touched a high of ₹28,300 crore or $4.3 billion during 2016-17. Import volumes had touched a high of 6.6 mt during 2016-17 and declined in the subsequent years on rise in domestic production.

However, the erratic weather triggered by deficit rains in several parts of the country impacted the output during 2023-24. According to government estimates, pulses production during kharif 2023-24 season was 71.18 lt, down from previous year’s 76.21 lt. Rabi pulses output is estimated to be 163.24 lt, down from previous year’s 163.58 lt.