Rebound in pulses production, a good augury

G Chandrashekhar | Updated on September 13, 2020 Published on September 13, 2020

Kharif season pulses production is set for a 10 per cent increase in 2020-21, thanks to record high acreage and adequate precipitation.

Planted area for major kharif season pulses — tur/arhar (pigeon pea), urad (black matpe) and moong — is up from previous year’s levels to reach a new high of 137.9 lakh hectares (previous year 131.8 lakh ha).

The planting period coincided with the national lockdown to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. A large number of migrant workers who had returned home got engaged in planting. Timely onset and satisfactory progress of the South-West monsoon helped. This should explain the 6-lakh ha increase in planted area.

Higher MSP

Moong ,in particular, has attracted a 16 per cent or 5 lakh ha higher seeded area to reach 35.7 lakh ha. A possible reason for this is the relatively high minimum support price for the crop at ₹7,200 a quintal, vis-à-vis ₹6,000 for tur/arhar and urad.

Harvest of kharif pulses this year will be in the range of 82-87 lakh tonnes (lt). Although this is well below the season’s target of 100 lt, it is 10 per cent higher than 2019 kharif production of 77.2 lt (as per 4th advance estimate).

It is a good augury for the kharif harvest time and for pulse growers that market prices of various pulses have moved up by 10-20 per cent in recent weeks. This is sure to motivate growers many of whom suffered low prices in 2019 and 2018 seasons.

The price rise also suggests that after over two years, inventory burden has considerably eased and the market is nearing a state of equilibrium.

Looking ahead, current prices of chana (chickpea) at ₹5,000 a quintal and masoor (lentils) at ₹5,200 a quintal should encourage growers to expand the seeded area in the rabi season, planting for which will commence by mid-November.

Pulses in PDS

While growers will feel motivated by market conditions, vulnerable consumers deserve to be supported too. The supply of free ration of one kg whole chana per month per vulnerable family will end in November. Along with rice and wheat, it is necessary to supply pulses too under the public distribution system at affordable rates beyond November.

From a pulses sector perspective, the year 2020-21 will be critical as it is sure to test the resilience of the market and of the policymakers in terms of capacity to absorb higher prices. The interests of growers and consumers both have to be protected. So, we need trade and tariff policies that would encourage production and consumption both.

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

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Published on September 13, 2020
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