Given the difficulties faced in pulses procurement aimed at the creation of a buffer stock, an inter-ministerial group (IMG) monitoring prices of essential commodities has decided to make changes in the quality norms, which would help agencies like farmers’ cooperative Nafed, Food Corporation of India (FCI) and Small Farmers’ Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC) in stepping up purchase of lentils from farmers.
Sources told FE that the IMG, comprising the officials including from the ministries of food, consumer affairs and agriculture, in a meeting on Wednesday, has decided to make changes in the quality norm for the procurement of pulses so that these agencies could purchase about 1 lakh tonne of pulses for the buffer stocks in the current year.
It has been decided that the agencies would follow norm decided under the Fair Average Quality (FAQ) — relating to foreign matter permissible, percentage of broken matter, etc. for the purchase of pulses from the farmers. As reported by FE, Nafed was finding it difficult to procure pulses from farmers to create a buffer stock because of stringent Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) quality norms.
“The issue of quality specifications was resolved and the procurement of essential commodities is expected to pick up in the coming weeks. With the new arrivals, the situation is expected to further improve,” a food ministry statement late on Wednesday said.
After a directive from the ministry to purchase 35,000 tonne of pulses this season (July-June), farmers’ cooperative Nafed began purchases of arhar dal from the farmers in Rajasthan a few weeks ago. However, sources said, of 39 samples picked up by the Nafed team, only two could meet the FSSAI norm of less than 1% foreign matter presence.
The idea of a buffer stock of pulses arose after retail prices of these edibles, the primary source of protein for most Indians, skyrocketed of late — retail and wholesale inflation in prices of pulses stood at 42% and 53%, respectively, in October.
Meanwhile, farmers have already started to bring urad dal to mandis across Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, and the arrivals would commence in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka by January or February.
Sources said delay on purchase of pulses by government agencies would hit the government’s decision to create a buffer stock, as the concerned farmers have the option of selling their produce to private parties who could buy urad and arhar at higher than the minimum support price (MSP).While the government has fixed kharif MSP of 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.
Pulses production fell to 17.20 million tonne (MT) in the 2014-15 crop year due to poor rains, against 19.25 MT in the previous year. The country imported more than 4 MT during the last fiscal and traders expect imports to cross 5 million tonne this fiscal.