Prices of pulses in retail markets across country have fallen but the government will not lift stock limits on traders as it wants to see if the downward trend is a permanent phenomemon, Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said today.
The government will buy pulses from farmers if domestic prices fall below the minimum support prices (MSP) using the Price Stabilisation Fund, the Minister said, while expressing hope that production would rise this year.
He was speaking after a meeting of Group of Ministers, headed by the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. The meeting was called to understand the preliminary finding on pulses by a committee headed by the Chief Economic Advisor.
In July, the panel was set up to frame a long-term policy on pulses to relook at various options including the MSP and bonus to promote pulses cultivation.
“Prices have come down at this moment but we need to see if this is a permanent phenomenon… So far stock limit, MSP and buffer stock have been our weapon (to control prices). Because of all these measures hoarders have started liquidating their stock. As a result of this, prices have come down,” the Minister said.
Retail prices have fallen in last few weeks and are currently in a range of Rs 115-170 per kg across major cities.
“We have discussed everything including stock limit. We have to save our wickets as well as make runs,” Paswan said when asked whether the government plans to lift stock limits on traders.
Stating that prices of moong dal have come down below MSP, Paswan said the the government intends to buy any pulses if the rates fall below MSP by using Price Stabilisation Fund.
The Finance Minister has assured that there would not be any shortage of funds under PSF, he added.
“As a Consumer Affairs Minister, I have to protect farmers as well consumers. Farmers should get right price for their produce at the same time I don’t want consumers to suffer from high prices,” Paswan said.
Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Information & Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu were also present in the meeting.
Meanwhile, Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha held a meeting to review the prices and availability of essential commodities, mainly pulses, and directed all the Ministries concerned to strengthen monitoring mechanism and ensure availability of these items at reasonable prices during festival season.
The procurement agencies, including NAFED, were directed to buy tur, urad and moong directly from farmers in all producing states for creating buffer stock to supply lentils at cheaper rates and ensuring support price for growers.
Earlier in the day, Paswan said in Kanpur that the country will see a bumper pulse production this year leading to a fall in prices and asked hoarders to offload their stocks.
India’s pulses production fell to 16.47 million tonnes in the 2015-16 crop year (July-June) from 17.15 million tonnes in the previous year. Pulses output had been low in the last two crop years due to drought, resulting in spike of retail rates.
However, pulses production is expected to rise at 20 million tonnes in 2016-17 as farmers have grown pulses in larger area this year following good monsoon, high market prices and sharp increase in the minimum support price (MSP).
The Centre has decided to create buffer stock of 2 million tonnes of pulses through imports and domestic purchases for making market intervention and supply at reasonable rates.