Pulses imports into the country more than doubled in the first half of the current financial year as erratic and shortfall in the south-west monsoon rain in the key growing regions impacted their production.

Per the latest official data, pulses imports in volumes saw an increase of close to 113 per cent to over 14.85 lakh tonnes (lt) during the April-September period of financial year 2023-24 compared with 6.98 lt in the same period a year ago. In dollar terms, shipments clocked a similar growth exceeding $1.26 billion during April-September over $595 million a year ago. In rupee terms, the pulses import bill clocked a 122 per cent growth at ₹10,440 crore over ₹4,695 crore in the year-ago period.

The surge in pulses imports is led by higher purchases of lentils (masur), arhar (tur) and urad among other varieties. Imports of lentils during April-September registered 184 per cent growth at 8.02 lt against 2.81 lt a year ago.

Tariff removal for US

In fact, India had imported 8.58 lt of lentils during financial year 2022-23. With increased off-take of masur dal, coupled with the recent removal of retaliatory customs tariff on the lentils sourced from the US, it is expected that the imports of this pulses variety would exceed a million tonnes this financial year. The planting of lentils has taken place in about 12.74 lakh hectares in the ongoing rabi season till November 24 compared with 12.03 lakh hectares a year ago. The normal area under lentils is 14.37 lakh hectares. Overall, pulses acreage is trailing last year’s levels due to sluggish pace of gram sowing.

Imports of tur during April-September this year stood at 2.74 lt — an increase of 75 per cent over 1.56 lt a year ago. Similarly, imports of urad were higher by about 39 per cent at over 2.40 lt over 1.72 lt a year ago. Imports of tur could have been higher, but the pace of shipments have been slow as the trade in Eastern Africa, mainly Mozambique, is taking advantage of the scarcity, sources said. India’s imports of tur and urad during 2022-23 stood at 8.94 lt and 5.24 lt, respectively.

“Imports have been good, so far. The overall pulses imports for the current fiscal are likely to exceed last year’s levels with the new crop in of tur and urad expected from end-January,” said Rahul Chauhan of Igrain India. In Myanmar, the urad crop is estimated to be around 6.5 lt and tur at around 3.5 lt, he said.

India had imported 25.29 lt of pulses during 2022-23. Per the Agriculture Ministry’s first advance estimates, production of tur is estimated to be 34.21 lt, almost similar to the output last year.