INDIA – Despite concerted efforts and various incentives provided to farmers, India’s dependency on pulses imports for its domestic consumption continues to rise, with the latest figures indicating a staggering increase in imports during the fiscal year 2023-24. 

The import surge has prompted concerns about stabilizing prices and ensuring an adequate domestic supply.

Official data suggests that pulses imports almost doubled during the 2023-24 period, reaching US$3.74 billion. Estimates indicate that shipments crossed 4.5  million metric tonnes, significantly higher than the 2.45 MMT imported in the previous fiscal year.

To meet the growing domestic demand and mitigate price volatility, the Indian government is actively engaging with new markets such as Brazil and Argentina for long-term import contracts. 

Negotiations are underway to import over 20,000 tonnes of urad from Brazil, while final-stage discussions are ongoing for importing arhar from Argentina.

Additionally, the government has secured agreements with countries like Mozambique, Tanzania, and Myanmar to bolster pulses imports, aiming to augment domestic supply and regulate prices.

The surge in imports comes against the backdrop of rising concerns over declining domestic production. Despite various government initiatives, including guaranteed purchases and higher minimum support prices (MSP), pulses production has decreased over the past few years. 

The Agriculture Ministry estimates production of 23.4 MMT in 2023-24, down from 26.1 MMT the previous year.

Experts attribute the decline in production to erratic climate conditions in key producing regions. Furthermore, the reduction in pulses sowing area over the last few years, coupled with diminishing production, has compounded the challenges the agricultural sector faces.

The Reserve Bank of India has also highlighted the role of food prices, particularly pulses, in inflationary pressures, making it difficult to achieve the target inflation rate of 4%.

In response to the escalating concerns, the government has implemented measures to stabilize prices, including imposing stock limits on pulses and urging states to prevent hoarding. 

However, addressing the root causes of declining production and addressing the structural issues within the agricultural sector remain key challenges for policymakers.

India, being both a significant consumer and producer of pulses, relies on imports to meet a portion of its consumption needs. Popular varieties consumed in the country include chana, masur, urad, kabuli chana, and tur.

As the nation grapples with the complex interplay of production, imports, and prices in the pulses market, policymakers face the formidable task of ensuring food security and affordability for its burgeoning population.

For all the latest grains industry news from Africa, the Middle East, and the World, subscribe to our weekly NEWSLETTERS, follow us on LinkedIn, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.