G Chandrashekhar

Time to open up pulses export as production rebounds

G. Chandrashekhar Mumbai | Updated on January 02, 2014

Pulses imports have slowed down considerably following a significant rebound in domestic production this year and softer, consumer-friendly prices.

Compared with 33.6 lakh tonnes of aggregate arrivals during 2012-13 fiscal, imports during the first six months (April-September) of the current fiscal were 14.2 lakh tonnes.

At the current pace of arrivals, total imports during the current fiscal are likely to be lower than 30 lakh tonnes. Currency movements have also played a part in slowing imports.

Rapid weakening of the rupee and its recovery subsequently, albeit partial, in 2013 caught many traders by surprise. The effect of slowing imports is clearly felt in the world market. Canadian exporters are a little worried over slower pace of shipments.

Canada is India’s largest supplier of pulses, mainly yellow pea. Expressing concern, Martin Chidwick of Agrimonde Pulse Inc, Canada, recently enquired: “What is happening in India that has seen our yellow pea shipping slip?” The answer is that chana (gram) harvest in 2013 was a record at 89 lakh tonnes against 77 lakh tonnes a year ago.

No wonder, chana prices have been ruling steady to soft in the last several months.

It is widely believed that flour made out of imported yellow pea is blended with chana flour. Anecdotal reports from traders suggest that offtake in the local market is somewhat sluggish.

Extended South-West Monsoon, excellent subsoil moisture and higher minimum support price have combined to boost rabi plantings.

According to the Weather Watch Group of the Agriculture Ministry, as of December 20, area under various rabi pulses was 126.8 lakh hectares, higher than 121.2 lakh hectares during the corresponding period a year ago.

In particular, acreage under gram or chana (desi chick pea) has increased to 87 lakh hectares against 83 lakh hectares last year. Moong plantings have also reverted to trend at about 2.3 lakh hectares.

Crop prospects appear bright on current reckoning. Rabi harvest has the potential to reach 120-125 lakh tonnes.

With kharif harvest estimated at 60 lakh tonnes, the annual production of pulses may total 180-185 lakh tonnes.

It may, however, fall slightly short of the annual target of 190 lakh tonnes.

With rebound in production and softer prices, the time is most opportune for the policymakers to open up pulses export, even if in a limited way.

Such as open door foreign trade policy (free import and export) will bring multiple spinoff benefits including providing price support to growers, utilisation of idle milling capacity and foreign exchange earning.

The Planning Commission’s working group has projected pulses demand for 2013-14 at 217.7 lakh tonnes.

However, the actual demand may turn out to be higher because of rising rural incomes, consumer-friendly prices and current low per capita consumption.

Published on January 02, 2014

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