Miss­ing pulse

De­spite be­ing a world leader in pulses pro­duc­tion, In­dia has been forced to im­port due to crop loss and seed deficit. The sharp rise in prices is only a symp­tom

Down to Earth - - AGRICULTURE - JI­TEN­DRA |

DOWN TO EARTH

RANI DEVI, 47, is dry­ing chick­pea ( chanaa daal) in Kuite Khera vil­lage of Ut­tar Pradesh.She in­tends to use them as seeds in the com­ing rabi sea­son (Oc­to­ber to De­cem­ber),as she is fac­ing acute short­age of seeds. “I had kept th­ese for consumption but will now use them as seeds,” says Rani. “We nei­ther get qual­ity seeds from the gov­ern­ment nor from the mar­ket and th­ese seeds are our last hope,”she adds. Rani is not alone.Thou­sands of farm­ers across In­dia are fac­ing crop loss and seed deficit even as prices hit the roof.In­dia is the world’s largest pulse pro­duc­ing, con­sum­ing and im­port­ing coun­try.

Far away, in the African coun­try of Malawi,pulse grow­ers re­joice over a wind­fall gain they are set to make. To over­come the short­fall in pulse pro­duc­tion this year, the In­dian gov­ern­ment has de­cided to im­port 5,000 tonnes of pi­geon pea ( arhar daal) from Malawi.

Th­ese devel­op­ments raise many ques­tions over the farming of pulses in In­dia, which has emerged as the most po­lit­i­cally sen­si­tive crop in re­cent times.And not with­out rea­sons.

Around the time the Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance (nda) gov­ern­ment was cel­e­brat­ing near zero food in­fla­tion in its first year in power, con­sumers across the coun­try felt the pinch of food in­fla­tion again. Within a span of one month (May) it rose from 4.8 per cent to 5.48 per cent. In fact, re­tail prices of pulses have risen by up to 64 per cent in the last one year across the coun­try.

The ma­jor driver of food in­fla­tion was the hike in prices of pulses, which was caused by the crop loss due to un­timely rains. In­dia’s pulses pro­duc­tion fell from 19.25 mil­lion tonnes in 2013-14 to 17.3 mil­lion tonnes in 2014-15, while im­ports rose from 3.18 mil­lion tonnes in 2013-14 to 4.58 mil­lion tonnes in 2014-15.

From the prime min­is­ter, the fi­nance

Un­like rice and wheat, the gov­ern­ment does not pro­cure pulses, leav­ing farm­ers de­pen­dent on the

va­garies of the mar­ket

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