With spike in domestic pulses and onion prices witnessed annually, the consumer affairs ministry on Monday stressed for the involvement of an independent agency for forecasting the availability and demand of key agricultural commodities in both domestic and global markets.
According to C Viswanath, secretary, department of consumer affairs, with the input from the specialised independent agency, state-owned MMTC would import the required quantity of pulses and onion in advance so as to avoid delay in floating tenders and sourcing adequate quantity of the commodities from various countries so that it could be released in the market once prices start moving northward.
Chairing a meeting of an inter ministerial committee (IMG) on prices and availability of essential food items, Viswanath said “timely imports of pulses and onions would facilitate to plan effective market intervention, well in advance, by the concerned government agencies”.
Sources told FE the consumer affairs ministry has expressed concern about the agriculture ministry’s inability to provide advance information about likely shortfall in production of pulses and onion.
“We could have easily imported a million tonne of onion in June for curbing spike in prices in the domestic prices,” an official who attended IMG said. Instead the decision to import onion was taken in August and subsequently MMTC floated the tender to import 10,000 tonne of onion from Egypt and China. The country faces shortage in onion supplies during August-September annually, leading to spike in prices.
IMG consists of group of officials from consumer affairs, food, agriculture ministries and the cabinet secretariat.
Similarly in the case of pulse prices, the prices of moong and arhar had started to rise in July and August, yet the import decision was not taken on the time. “We have been importing around 3 to 4 million tonne of pulse annually for last many years for meeting domestic shortfall. We should plan our import well in advance,” an official said. The country’s pulses production is estimated to have fallen to 17.38 million tonnes (mt) in 2014-15 from 19.25 mt in the previous crop year, due to a deficient monsoon last year.
India, world’s biggest importer of pulses, imported 4.5 million tonne of the commodity in the 2014-15 fiscal from the overseas market as against 3.1 mt in the previous year.
Meanwhile, 3250 tonne of imported tur or arhar dal has arrived at Chennai and Mumbai ports and remaining stock of 1,750 tonne will arrive soon. At present MMTC has enough stocks to make supplies of tur dal in Delhi and other states. MMTC would import an additional quantity of 2,000 tonne of tur dal to augment supplies and moderate prices of pulses.
Last week, the retail prices of tur or arhar dal was R152 per kg in Delhi, while price of moong dal was Rs 109 per kg.