Commodities

Frustrating delay in issue of permits against pulse imports

G Chandrashekhar | Updated on July 21, 2020 Published on July 21, 2020

Pulses traders who had applied for permits to import moong, tur/arhar and peas are a frustrated lot today. Even three months after the quantitative ceiling on each of the above pulses was announced, permits have not been issued. This is creating avoidable uncertainty in trade circles.

On April 21, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) under the Ministry of Commerce notified an import ceiling of 4 lakh tonnes for tur/arhar (pigeon peas), 1.5 lakh tonnes for moong and 1.5 lakh tonnes for peas including green peas, but excluding yellow peas. Only dal processing mills were allowed to apply for import quota.

More delay in the issue of permits is expected as the DGFT has sent out a communication to applicants seeking background information, most of which is already in its possession. A team of inspectors is visiting dal mills to ascertain milling capacity.

It is unclear why permits have not been issued expeditiously and why these processes are being carried out several months after announcing the ceiling through a notification and seeking applications from intending importers.

Mockery of policy

The unexplained but inordinate delay in the issue of permits is making a mockery of India’s import policy and procedure, complain international traders. The tragedy is, the country’s image as a reliable trading partner is taking a beating, something none in the government circles seems to bother about.

The delay may actually prove counterproductive. Our next harvest of kharif pulses (mainly tur/arhar, urad and moong) will be in September/October. At the same time, a spike in consumption demand during the upcoming traditional festival season is likely.

 

Any further delay in issue of permits will result in the arrival of imported cargo, not for meeting festival demand, but just at the time of harvest, which will depress domestic prices. This is yet another example of lack of commercial intelligence and poor understanding of foreign trade within policymaking circles.

Meanwhile, several hundred containers of urad (black matpe) have arrived from Myanmar against import permits issued earlier. The quantitative ceiling for urad for the year 2020-21 is 4 lakh tonnes, released sometime in March.

Lentil imports

Lentil (masur) imports are currently going on. After the Finance Ministry reduced customs duty in imported lentils from 30 per cent to 10 per cent, valid till August 31, about 3 lakh tonnes have reportedly been shipped out from Canada and other origins, and over half of the cargo has already arrived in the country.

Meanwhile the price of many pulses such as chana (chickpea), tur/arhar and moong continues to rule below the minimum support price. This is despite procurement and price support efforts by State agencies such as NAFED. The fact of the matter is, given the size of the crops and geographical spread, the price support efforts need enormous scaling up.

NAFED is also involved in ensuring the supply of 1 kg chana per vulnerable family per month from April till November as part of government’s free food ration scheme.

(The writer is a policy commentator and agribusiness specialist. Views are personal)

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Published on July 21, 2020
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