Down to Earth - - PULSES - 5 0 Source: In­dian In­sti­tute of Pulses Re­search, Kan­pur; * April-July 2016 @ji­ten­dra­choube1

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

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