Government considers increase in import of pulses to reduce prices

New Delhi: Expecting a further increase in the supply-demand gap of pulses, the government is considering importing more lentils to check prices, which are still ruling as high as Rs 180 per kg.

So far, state-owned Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation (MMTC) of India has imported 5,000 tonnes of tur on behalf of the government. The stock has been given to some state governments including Delhi at a subsided rate for further distribution in the open market.

Pulses prices continue to rule high due to fall in domestic production by 2 million tonnes in the 2014-15 crop year (July-June) due to 14 per cent deficit monsoon.

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On Tuesday, a committee of secretaries from the Finance, Food and Consumer Affairs, Agriculture and Commerce ministries deliberated on availability and prices of pulses and other essential items.

“In the meeting, the committee decided to import more pulses. It also decided to monitor quantities of imported pulses on real time basis,” sources said.

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It was decided that both Commerce and Consumer Affairs Secretaries will hold separate meetings with private traders as well as PSUs to chalk out a plan regarding the import of pulses for the coming months, they said.

The import plan for pulses is being kept in place amid concerns that the supply gap may widen significantly if the Rabi (winter) crop gets reduced by chance due to any adverse weather conditions.

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Till last week of the ongoing 2015-16 Rabi season, which started in October, area sown to pulses was 74.06 lakh hectare, slightly lower than 77.42 lakh hectare in the year-ago period, according to the Agriculture Ministry’s data.

According to sources, the Food and Agriculture Ministries have been asked to achieve procure pulses and reach the targets set for creation of buffer stock.

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The country’s pulses production was 17.20 million tonnes in the 2014-15 crop year, much lower than the requirement of 25 million tonnes. The gap is being met through imports.

India imports about four million tonnes of pulses largely through the private trade. But this time, the government has started importing pulses after a gap of two years.