With the government soon expected to announce increase in MSP of pulses, Niti Aayog member Ramesh Chand today said hiking the support price alone will not help boost production much in the long-run without technological breakthrough.
The government needs to rethink its policy and address technological issues as pressure on retail prices would continue till supply-demand gap is not fixed, he said.
Speaking at an event organised by think-tank International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Chand said: “I agree to some extent that by giving higher prices (MSP) will bring some shift in area to pulses but it will not help us in raising production too much.”
The government needs to “rethink” about it. It would be a “day dream” to consider higher price will increase production without technological breakthrough, he said.
At one point of time, prices of pulses were almost at par with wheat and rice rates, but now the rates are six times higher than rice and wheat, he said.
A proposal to hike minimum support price (MSP) of pulses and other kharif crops for 2016-17 crop year (July-June) is expected to be taken up for discussion in the Cabinet meeting soon. The Agriculture Ministry has proposed increase in MSP of pulses by up to Rs 200 per quintal to encourage cultivation.
When asked if hike in pulses MSP this year would yield expected results, Chand said, “There should not be blind faith on MSP. Already market rates are 50 per cent higher than MSP, so any increase will not have much impact. Farmers will grow pulses taking market prices into account.”
Stating that strong prices of pulses will continue till supply-demand gap is not met, Chand earlier said: “There is 4-7 million deficit in pulses output. We are knocking doors of other countries for supply. We need magical technological breakthrough to increase domestic output.”
Pulses are not available in the global market at present. Myanmar, which is India’s main source of pulses, has not been able to increase its production beyond 8 lakh tonnes. And now, the country is turning to Africa to grow pulses, he added.
Chand further shared that the per capita consumption of pulses has declined due to non-availability while consumption of cereals has not increased despite sufficient stock.
The per capita pulses consumption has come down to 38 grams from 60 gram 15 years back. “If we have to restore to 60 grams, we need to increase production from the current 17-18 million tonnes to over 40 million tonnes.”
Chand also said the only way to achieve zero hunger in India is by making more pulses available to the poor and restore per capital consumption to earlier level of 60 grams per person.
Pulses output is estimated to be 17.33 million tonnes this year, marginally higher than the previous years production of 17.15 million tonnes, but much below the record 19.25 million tonnes achieved in 2013-14 crop year.