To curb rising prices of pulses, the government on Wednesday said it would import lentils on a “large scale’’ to boost domestic supply and also asked states to take action against hoarders.
In a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the measures such as raising the import of pulses and taking actions against hoarders were taken.
“Cabinet discussed about rising pulses prices and expressed concern about the same. Prime Minister has directed to import pulses in large quantity to keep domestic prices under check,” road transport minister Nitin Gadkari said after the cabinet meeting. However, Gadkari did not elaborate on the quantum of pulses import.
Official sources told FE that the government wants to give signal to traders against possible hoarding of pulses by announcing its decision to increase import of pulses. However, the food ministry is yet to identify the agency which would be entrusted with the task of pulses import.
The country’s pulses production is estimated to have fallen to 17.38 million tonne in 2014-15 from 19.25 mt in the previous crop year due to deficient monsoon and unseasonal rains and hailstorms. This year also the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has stated that the monsoon rains would be 88% of Long Period Average (LPA) for the entire country. India usually imports about 4 mt of pulses through private trade, to meet domestic shortfall.
According to department of consumer affairs data, the retail price of tur or arhar in Delhi rose to R115 per kg on Wednesday from R 86 per kg reported about five months back. Similarly the retails prices of urad in Delhi witnessed an increase to R114 per kg from R84 per kg during the same period. Prices of other pulses — moong and masor — rose sharply during the same period.
Meanwhile, the agriculture ministry had written to state governments regarding their expected pulses consumption in the next few months so that the government could identify the quantum of pulses to be imported. However, only Telangana and Maharashtra have informed the ministry about the quantity of their pulse requirement.
Sources also said the Committee of Secretaries (CoS) in the last few weeks have deliberated on the issue of importing pulses. One of the possible option being considered is to use a portion of dedicated corpus of R500 crore under the Price Stabilisation Fund (PSF). Other proposals being considered include allowing the PSF to be used by state government agencies for market intervention and the government could extend the zero import duty policy for pulses.