Pulse, wheat imports at a slow pace

Written by ASHOK B SHARMA | New Delhi, Jul 15 | Updated: Jul 17 2007, 01:23am hrs
Not only the import of wheat, but also that of pulses is not an easy going affair for the government. Less than one-fifth of the one million tonne pulses contracted for imports by four agencies designated by the government could arrive at the Indian ports by the first week of July.

Four agencies namely, PEC Ltd, MMTC Ltd, National Agricultural Marketing Cooperatives Federation of India (Nafed) and the State Trading Corporation of India (STC) contracted import of 1,037,500 pulses, out of which only 187,371 tonne pulses arrived at Indian ports. Different kinds of pulses like urad (black gram), moong (green gram), tur (pigeon pea), yellow peas, chick peas, masoor (red lentils) and dunpeas were contracted for imports.

Pulses production in 2006-07 had increased to 14.10 million tonne from 13.39 million tonne in the previous year, but was not sufficient to meet the consumption demand in the country.

The government had fixed a target of 15.15 million tonne pulses production in 2006-07. Pulses form a principal item in the Indian meals, apart from its extensive use in munchies.

With a view to meet the consumption demand, the government decided to facilitate import of pulses by reducing the effective duty to zero.

According to the Agmarketnet data, even though market arrivals of Bengal gram increased by 83% its average wholesale prices shot up by 4% in June this year as compared to that in the same month last year. Comparatively the average wholesale prices of red gram increased by one per cent in June 2007, while its market arrivals declined by 14%. Notwithstanding the increase in market arrivals of tur (pigeon pea) by 30%, its average wholesale prices shot up by 10% in June 2007 as compared to that in the same month last year.

Indias attempt to import wheat for replenishing its buffer stock is now facing the problem of rising global prices, though the worlds wheat production in 2007 increased by 4%.

Experts say that in case of pulses the situation is more difficult as very few countries grow enough pulses to cater to Indias needs.

Though India is major producer of pulses, the production is not sufficient to meet our needs. We are an importer of pulses every year. We therefore need to achieve a breakthrough in production and productivity of pulses, said Vijay Sardana executive director of Centre for International Trade in Agriculture and Agro-based Industries (CITA).