The pulses trade expects the area under Kabuli chana, the premium white variety of chickpea, to rise this rabi cropping season on attractive prices and better soil moisture. “We see at least 40-50 per cent more area under Kabuli chana this year. Apart from traditional growers, we see more new farmers taking up seeding this year as the prices are attractive,” said Navneet Singh Chhabra of Global Garbanzo, which trades in chickpeas in over 35 countries.

Chhabra said the expected increase in area will be across States such as Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. Also, it had been raining till last week, which should help sowing. There are no official estimates of the Kabuli chana acreage as it is not segregated. Chhabra estimates that the normal acreage under Kabuli chana could be in the range of 2.5-2.75 lakh hectares. However, the acreages had touched a high of 4 lakh hectares a few years ago, he said.

Also read: After 52-week rally, chana prices fall 13% in Dec

In the 2020-21 rabi season, production of Kabuli chana dropped by a third to 2.5 lakh tonnes. This was mainly on account of decline in area by a tenth and also due to the lower yields, Chhabra said.

The Indian Pulses and Grains Association (IPGA), the apex trade body for the sector also sees an increase in the area under Kabuli chana this year. “The water table is good and we will see a good rabi planting season,” said Bimal Kothari, vice chairman, IPGA.

“Kabuli chana is getting a good price in the market. The sowing of Kabuli may go up this year, while chana area will be at par with last year,” said Sunil Sawla, IPGA Secretary.

The smaller variety of Kabuli chana (7-8 mm) is traded at around ₹65-70 a kg, while the bold variety of 11-12 mm is around ₹100-110 a kg. Sawla said the Kabuli crop was around 2 lakh tonnes in MP and Maharastra, down by almost a third over last year.

Though Kabuli variety accounts for a fraction of the overall chana production in the country, it is considered a premium produce. Overall, chana production was pegged at 11.99 million tonnes during 2020-21 according to the Fourth Advance Estimates by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Kabuli chana is mostly consumed in out-of-home segments such as hotels, restaurants, street food, weddings and social gatherings. “With the easing of Covid restrictions, we expect demand to go up for Kabuli chana,” Sawla said.

Kabuli chana consumption was hit during 2020-21 due to the Covid lockdown. Chhabra estimates that consumption during 2020-21 would have come down by 20 per cent at around 2.5 lakh tonnes and the carryforward stocks for 2021-22 are pegged at 36,000 tonnes.

Low export, import

Kabuli chana exports this year are negligible as global prices are lower, Chhabra said. At the same time, imports are also lower due to a higher duty of 44 per cent and lower demand due to Covid restrictions.

In the mandis, kabuli chana prices are ruling at ₹7,500-8,500 per quintal, which is attractive to farmers compared to desi chana or gram, Chhabra said. Modal price (rates at which most trades take place) of desi chana is ruling between ₹4,000-5,000 per quintal across various markets

Rahul Chauhan of Igrain India said demand for Kabuli chana is parallel to the desi chana. “ Desi chana is down due to low demand and the situation is same with Kabuli. The pulses industry is suffering due to lack of demand,” he said. Kabuli chana is currently ruling at ₹8,400-9,000 per quintal and the ideal prices should be over ₹10,000 per quintal, Chauhan said.