The Centre, which has been grappling with the issue of disposing of more than 18 lakh tonne of buffer stock of pulses, has decided to sell around 7 lakh tonne of lentils below the market price to states as well as for central welfare schemes like mid-day meal scheme and to army and paramilitary forces. The food ministry has already circulated a cabinet note for disposing of pulses below the market price in the next couple of months. According to Union food minister Ram Vilas Paswan, by selling pulses (arhar, urad, moong, masur and chana) which were mostly procured in last one year by three agencies – agri cooperative Nafed, Food Corporation of India and Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC) – the space would be created for the purchase of new kharif crops (2017-18).
Around 3.5 lakh tonne of pulses would be allocated at lower rates to five states – Karnataka, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The states would be distributing the pulses under the Public Distribution System (PDS) and the mid-day meal scheme. “Rest of the volume of pulses would be sold through open market sale,” Paswan said. The food ministry is aiming at disposing off close to half of the current buffer stocks by December.
Nafed has launched an dedicated portal – www.nafed.agribazaar.com – facilitating sale and purchase of agricultural commodities including pulses. For the auction of pulses procured for buffer stocks through the portal, the base price has been fixed by the department of consumer affairs. About 80,000 tonne of pulses have already been sold in the market through this portal while overall disposal has been 2.49 lakh tonne so far.
“If we could sell 10 lakh tonne pulses in the next couple of months, we still manage to create a two million tonne of buffer stocks through procurement during kharif 2017-18 season. We will first sell older stocks,” consumer affairs secretary Avinash Srivastav said.
Out of around 15.6 lakh tonne of pulses such as moong, urad, arhar and masur purchased from farmers by Nafed, FCI and SFAC since the buffer stocks policy was announced, arhar procurement so far has been around 11.6 lakh tonne.
Nafed has purchased the bulk of pulses procured for buffer stocks, which was financed from the Price Stabilisation Fund being managed by the department of consumer affairs. Trade agencies such as MMTC and STC have imported around 3.7 lakh tonne of pulses for the buffer stocks, so far.
The country had produced a record 22.95 million tonne pulses in the 2016-17 crop year (July-June), mainly because of normal rains and higher market prices.
The finance minister Arun Jaitley had announced creation of a buffer stock for pulses in October 2015 to control a spike in prices. Initially, it was decided to create buffer stocks through imports, however, the government decided to purchase pulses from farmers later.