Cheap pulses via PDS likely by Dec

Written by Commodities Bureau | Agencies | New Delhi, Oct 24 | Updated: Oct 25 2008, 07:33am hrs
Admitting that the market price of pulses was higher than the import price, the government on Friday said that it would launch a scheme of supplying pulses at subsidised prices through ration shops in the next one-and-half months. If we have to make pulses available to the weaker sections, there is no other alternative than supplying them through the public distribution system, food and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said while replying to supplementary query during Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha.

Under the scheme each ration-card holder would be provided one kg of pulses at Rs 10 a kg, which was less than the market price. Pawar said that the government has sold the imported pulses below cost to keep the rise in prices under check. However, market price still rules higher than the import cost.

PSUs such as MMTC, STC and PEC, besides cooperative major Nafed, have imported 3.52 lakh tonne of pulses till October 16 to date. The minister said that during the year the average purchase price of imported urad (black matpe) was Rs 28,094 a tonne, while nodal PSUs sold it at Rs 27,452 a tonne.

The average purchase price of tur (pigeon peas), moong (green gram) and desi chana (gram) are Rs 32,577, Rs 31,997 and Rs 32,370 per tonne, respectively, Pawar said while their average selling prices were Rs 29,048, Rs 28,675 and Rs 24,693 a tonne respectively. While the government does not decide the selling cost of imported pulses, it has agreed to bear 15% of the loss.

Despite the governments best efforts, there is still remains a shortage of 1.3 million tonne, which is being met through imports. Indias annual pulses output has been stagnant at around 15 million tonne - 16 million tonne, while demand is at around 18 million tonne. To bridge the gap, the government imports pulses mainly from Myanmar and Australia.

Since the past few years, the government has been trying to raise pulses output, but has met with little success as the crop faces stiff competition for acreage from wheat and rice. Erratic monsoons and low returns have also limited any sharp growth in the output of pulses. Sources also said that the absence of any big breakthrough in the quality of pulses seeds is also preventing any substantial rise in output. The government has introduced a number of schemes including the National Food Security Mission to increase output by increasing the area under cultivation.

As per the governments 1st advanced crop estimates, output of pulses has been estimated at 4.72 million tonne during the 2008-09 kharif season, down from an earlier estimate of 6.45 million tonne due to scanty rains in chief-growing regions in central India.