High productivity has come as a punishment for farmers. Moong dal production jumped from 1.02 million tonnes during the kharif season last year to 1.35 million tonnes this year, and tur dal production is expected to be around 4.29 million tonnes this year, up from 2.46 million tonnes last year. The sudden fall in the prices of pulses has made farmers more vulnerable despite a bumper harvest. In more than 200 major wholesale markets in the country, the price of moong dal is lower than the msp.
The crisis is only going to worsen. The tur dal (pigeon pea) harvest will arrive during mid-November, but the market rate for tur is already below the msp of per tonne in many states. Former Union Agriculture Minister Sompal Shastri says, “If you see the gap between the market price for farmers and msp, and the gap between msp and retail price, you will understand the agrarian crisis, especially for pulse producing farmers.”
Ironically, a bumper harvest has not brought down retail prices—consumers are still buying moong dal for per kg and per kg for tur dal. Before the crisis last year, moong dal was sold for about 50 per kg and tur dal for about 60 per kg. As the government is stepping away from procurement, farmers have been forced to sell their moong pulses at per kg to traders. So neither consumers nor farmers are gaining from the bumper production.
The reason is this: in view of the last year’s crisis, the government increased its buffer stock by importing pulses—it imported 5.8 million tonnes in 2015-16, up from 4.5 million tonnes in 2014-15. In April-July alone this year, India imported around 1.26 million tonnes of pulses spending more than crore. “This only shows that the government is not going to support domestic farmers even during bumper production,” says Devinder Sharma, a food and agriculture analyst.
One reason traders are not able to buy
IIfrom farmers is the stock limit guidelines, which are revised every month. In August, traders had a limitation of holding stocks between 1 and 3.5 tonnes in different dalproducing states. “Such policy limitations discourage traders to buy and stock pulses fearing raids,” says P Chengappa, associate professor with the Institute of Social and Economic Change, Bengaluru.
Pulses are more prone to pests than cereals, so it requires proper storage facilities. And without a robust distribution system the buffer stocks will rot, as was the case with onions, says Chengappa. Ramesh Chand, a member of niti Ayog, agrees that India requires more central warehouse storage facilities. “The government should stop importing pulses and procure it from domestic farmers,” says Mitesh Patel, president of Pulses Production Association, Gujarat. “It should also remove the stockholding limit,” adds Patel. The government has made it a habit of jumping from one crisis to another. Only this time, its policies have induced a unique crisis, one amid plenty.
Pulses are prone to pest attacks, so proper storage facilities are required and without a robust distribution system, the buffer stocks will rot. The stock limit guidelines too must be removed to allow traders to buy from farmers