As many as ten states have seized over 36,000 tonnes of pulses in a series of raids condicted over the past few days, with Mumbai alone accounting for 22,336 tonnes of the confiscated stocks, even as prices of certain varieties of the protein-rich staple continued to remain above Rs 200 per kg.
Maharashtra carried out as many as 276 raids in 16 districts on Tuesday and seized 23,340 tonnes of pulses. Maharashtra’s food and civil supplies minister Girish Bapat said on Wednesday that out of the total stocks that were seized in the state, Mumbai alone made up for 22,336 tonnes worth Rs 165 crore.
He, however, termed the shortfall in pulses “artificial” and said the state govenrment was considering auctioning the seized stocks or supplying the pulses through ration shops. The state has stipulated that a trader can’t stock more than 350 tonnes. Chhattisgarh, Telengana, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana also witnessed seizures in excess of a thousand tonnes.
The Centre has asked states to harden a crackdown on hoarding as it is convinced that excessive speculations on the harvest of the crop following the deficient monsoon this year and “hoarding” are causing the “irrational” spike in prices, according to senior officials. Even though production was down almost 10% in 2014-15 from a year before, imports were as high as 4.5 million tonnes and, therefore, adequate stocks are in the market. Although some amount of increase in pulse prices was natural, the sharp rise wasn’t in sync with the demand-supply fundamentals, said the officials.
The country needs over 21 million tonnes of pulses for annual consumption, while it produced 17.3 million tonnes of pulses in 2014-15, thanks to wide-scale dry-spells last year.
Meanwhile, following raids against hoarders in some states, tur prices fell marginally on Wednesday to Rs 205 per kg today from Rs 210 on Tuesday in retail markets in Delhi, according to the official data. Moong, masoor and gram (chana) rates also declined marginally to Rs 130, Rs 110 and 82, per kg respectively, while urad prices remained flat at Rs 198 per kg, showed the data.
States asked to take steps to contain prices
To bring down prices of pulses in Haryana, state-backed co-operative HAFED has been directed to procure pulses from the market and sell through its outlets, according to a statement by the Union consumer affairs ministry on Wednesday.
In Uttarakhand, retail outlets of pulses have been opened in Dehradun, Haridwar, Udhamsingh Nagar by Mandi samitis through which arhar dal is provided at Rs 145 per Kg, according to the statement. Instructions have been given to all districts to provide pulses at the decided price through Fair price shops. In Delhi, tur dal is being sold at Rs 120 per Kg through outlets of Safal and Kendriya Bhandar. The Tamil Nadu government is selling urad dal at just Rs 30 per kg, while government outlets in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are supplying each kg of red gram at Rs 50 per Kg.
Inflation in pulses in the wholesale price index rose 38.6% in September–the ninth straight month of double-digit inflation–even when the overall primary food inflation for the month was just 0.69%. In 2009-10 when the country faced the worst drought in 37 years, pulses inflation of 22.4% helped drive up food inflation to as high as 15.3%.
On Sunday, the Centre tweaked an earlier order to enable states to impose limits on stocks that can be held by importers, large department retailers and even food processors, apart from all other bulk suppliers.
Cabinet reviews price rise in pulses
A day after the Opposition attacked the government for its failure to tame prices of pulses, the Cabinet on Wednesday took stocks of anti-hoarding operations undertaken by states and discussed measures to boost supplies.
Separately, a panel of ministers is slated to hold a meeting–to be chaired by finance minister Arun Jaitley–later in the evening on the issue of the spurt in pulse prices, sources said. The Cabinet secretary is also reviewing the price situation of pulses regularly. The Cabinet secretary also reviewed the demand and supply of pulses with secretaries of consumer affairs, agriculture, commerce and other senior officials in a meeting on Monday in which it was decided that the government import 2,000 tonnes of tur dal and 1,000 tonnes of urad dal to contain the spurt in their prices.
On Tuesday, Congress leader and former commerce minister Anand Sharma alleged only six lakh tonnes have been imported this year against the usual shortfall of 40-50 lakh tonnes. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar also took a jib at Modi, asking the Prime Minister to “keep your ‘achche din’ with you and return people their ‘purane din’ (old days)”.