The government’s attempt to procure pulses for creating a buffer stock has hit a wall with only a small volume having been purchased by various agencies over the last month.
Sources told FE that all the three agencies — Food Corporation of India (FCI), Small Farmers’ Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC) and Nafed which commenced urad procurement in Rajasthan and Maharashtra — have purchased only about 104 tonne of pulses. FCI, which commenced procurement in Maharashtra, has to face hurdles from the traders in the mandis on the issue of direct payment to farmers.
In case of procurement of rice and wheat, FCI insists on direct payment to farmers for ensuring that the benefit of MSP is passed on to them. However, sources said that in Maharashtra, traders insisted that the payment to farmers should be made through them.
“As private traders play critical role in purchasing pulses from the farmers, we are facing problems in purchasing directly from the farmers,” an official told FE. With the urad procurement session is already over in many key growing states, these agencies are looking at the arrival of arhar in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra for purchase from the farmers next month.
Last month, Nafed had to face hurdle in urad procurement after the agriculture ministry insisted that only lentils that meet the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India’s (FSSAI) quality norms could be procured by the designated agencies. Subsequently, the issue was sorted out, however much time was lost in between.
While the government has fixed kharif MSP for tur at R4,625 per quintal and arhar at R4,825 a quintal for the 2015-16 session, the price farmers can get from private traders is significantly above this as retail prices are ruling far above MSP.
“It would be difficult for these agencies to create a buffer stock as there is a huge gap between production and consumption,” an agriculture ministry official said.
In October when the prices of pulses skyrocketed, the government had decided to create a buffer stock of around 3 lakh tonne of pulses through domestic purchase or imports. The agriculture ministry had asked FCI, SFAC and Nafed to commence procurement from November 1 for creating a buffer stock which would be released in the market once prices start rising.
According to official data, the country had imported 4.5 million tonne of pulses for meeting domestic shortfall last fiscal and in the current year the imports are expected to be around 4.1 million tonne. Besides private imports, the government agency MMTC had imported 5,000 tonne of tur dal to augment domestic supplies.
The country’s pulses production is estimated to have fallen to 17.38 million tonne (MT) in 2014-15 from 19.25 MT in the previous crop year, due to a deficient monsoon last year. The annual domestic consumption of pulses is around 22 to 23 MT.