India to import more pulses this year
Moneylife Digital team 16 February 2012

Brian Clancey of STAT, which also tracks global pulses prices and forecasts global production levels, said that India’s pulses production apparently is up this year. But whether India will be able to sustain the high level of production is a question

Pulses production in India is likely to decline this year, resulting in higher imports, confirmed a government official at an international pulses conclave being held in Mumbai. Experts present at the meet highlighted the need for increasing pulses production to meet the demand from rising population.  

“Pulses import is expected to touch 2.8 million tonnes (MT) till March and is slightly higher than last year, which was at 2.6 MT,” said Rajiv Agarwal, secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs-Foods and Public Distribution on the sidelines of the ‘Global Pulses Conclave 2012’ organized by India Pulses and Grain Association (IPGA).

Presenting the global perspectives on pulses, Brian Clancey, publisher and editor, STAT Publishing said, “The net field crop needs to rise at the rate of 1% per year by 2050 to meet the demand of rising population. If the output is even low by 0.5% then we have to face the issue of food shortage and higher prices”

Another panellist G Chandrashekhar of the Hindu Business Line, speaking on the global agricultural markets and outlook, elaborated on the factors such as weather conditions, inflation, slowing economy, prices of crude oil and speculative capital- impacting the agricultural commodities. “In the first half of 2012, the prices should be firm. It would be moderate because of the expectation of a rebound. There will be built up stock in the next 3-4 months. However, there is an upside risk of weather aberration.”

He adds, “Positive macro-economic data should give boost to the demand.”

Mr Clancey of STAT, which also tracks global pulses prices and forecasts global production levels, says that, “In India production apparently is up this year. It is less compared to last year, but both these years, production was way above for India. We calculated that the demand for pulses here is between 20-12 million tonnes. Prior to 2010, the production was hardly 15 million tonnes and the country imported around 3.5 million tonnes. That was way below what the country needed. Now the production has rebounded with a record crop last year. But still there is a gap which will be covered by imports.”

According to IPGA, around 1 lakh metric tonnes of chana have been already imported from Australia. India is the largest producer of pulses. Despite this, it is also the biggest importer of pulses, from countries like Australia, Canada and Myanmar, consuming about 15% of the world pulses trade. Of the total import basket, 50% is yellow peas, which is imported from Canada, Ukraine, Russia and France.

Mr Clancey says that, “Whether India will be able to sustain the high level of production is a question. Last year the record production was due to the Minimum Support Price (MSP) that the farmers got. Now, if the MSP falters, the farmers have to rely on the market. Indian pulses market is a diversified and sophisticated market.”The three-day conclave, which began yesterday, is an attempt to bring together all the stakeholders, from India and abroad, of the pulses industry. It is supported by the food and public distribution department of the consumer affairs ministry.

According to Mr Clancey, competition over acres for production, consumer demand, US Biofuel Policy and rising population of India and China will be the key drivers for the prices of pulses.

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