Under PM Modi, India winning the Pulse War

Written by SANDEEP SINGH

Much as India seems to have won the battle, a war might be a worst thing to experience,” this threatening line is from the article ‘India Import Ban on Tanzania Pigeon peas: When a Winner Looses All’ by Zirack Andrew, National Coordinator of Tanzania, Pulses Network in Dar Es Salaam.

He also says “And this won’t be the first time. It happened in the year 1254, when young Marco Polo travelled to China where he found spaghetti. In no place on earth other than China spaghetti was produced. But young Marco changed the game after coming back to Italy. He introduced the produce and many people joined the bandwagon. Now, Italy is the leading producer of pasta followed by United States, Brazil, Russia and Turkey. Complacency didn’t leave China on the safe side; today it is not even in the top five leading countries in producing the product. Can it happen to India also?

It is not important to discuss the relevance of the example or the threat by Zirack Andrew. What is important is to understand why the National Coordinator of Tanzania, Pulses Network is writing these lines. Let us understand from his article, where he writes:

What happened in that last season is that we mobilized our farmers (to increase pigeon peas production) and India produced a lot; so that was the problem. They (Indians) convinced us (to produce pigeon peas). Now after being self-reliant, they imposed a ban on countries which had no bilateral agreement with, but (surprisingly) they did the same to Tanzania while we have a bilateral agreement which we entered into with them in 2000, and so we told them,” said Charles Mwijage, Minister for Industry, Trade and Investment while addressing the press on September 4, 2017, soon after coming back from New Delhi on Tanzania-India Joint meeting where he met his counterpart and discussed the possibility of lifting the ban.

He also quotes a threat of “a case must be lodged to the International Court of Arbitration for breach of contract.”

The above are the excerpts from the January 2018 issue of The Pulse Pod, the e-magazine of Global Pulse Federation. The e magazine has nine articles, out of which five are on India’s Pulse production.

There is an article “Indian Tariffs Unhelpful to Pulse Trade” by Pulse Australia, which states:

On Thursday 21 December, the Indian Government announced a 30% tariff on imports of chickpeas and lentils, effective immediately. This will hit Australia’s two most important pulse crops hard, right in the middle of our harvest and when much of our export trade is getting under way for the year. This move follows hot on the heels of the 50% tariff impost on field peas announced about a month ago.

 “There are two impacts,” said Pulse Australia Chairman, Ron Storey. “First, there is the product on the water, for which Pulse Australia believes the Indian Government ought to provide a tariff exemption.

 Initial indications are that some 200,000 tonnes (around A$150 million) of Australian chickpeas and lentils are in transit to India and may be affected.

“The Indian Government should provide an exemption for Indian importers for product contracted and shipped prior to the new tariff being announced,” said Storey. “Indian buyers and Australia sellers have contracted in good faith, and the prior conditions should apply to permit smooth execution of those contracts.”

Pulse Australia has already made this request via Australian Government channels in India and is also working with Canada, whose position will be similar to Australia, to clarify this matter.”

In the same issue in the article “A Path Forward For Pulses”, Gordon Bacon, of Canada Pulse writes:

India and Canada are the two global superpowers of the pulse world. India is the world’s largest producer and the largest consumer of pulses. Canada is the world’s largest exporter of pulses. India’s growing population, strong economic growth, and inevitable variability in production and harvest quality (weather dependent) all point towards the need for a more comprehensive policy approach that recognizes that food security relies on trade.

 The current challenges with pulse trade in India signal that the time has come for the pulse superpowers to come to one view on how to address both the short term and long term commercial and political realities of pulse trade.

 Both countries have a lot at stake. No government will benefit if actions end up creating unintended consequences like reduced pulse plantings in 2018. The wrong signals from pulse superpower India could drive farmers in countries like Canada to sharply reduce pulse plantings, setting the stage for a potential shortage of pulses for the 2018-2019 crop year.

Each country’s response is directly proportional to the financial and social hit it will take due to growth in pulse production in India. Tanzanian economy may go back by few years hence the strong reaction.

The reason for quoting the above is to make Indians realise how self sufficiency in pulse production by India can impact international equations. (Imagine what will happen if India becomes self sufficient in other products, like defence, petrol etc? And also think why opposition parties and NGOs are so against development in India?)

Before proceeding further another interesting fact on Tanzania.

International Trade Centre, a joint agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation is implementing a five year project called ‘Supporting Indian Trade and Invest for Africa’ (SITA). With the intention of encouraging farmers and providing stable price for the farmers, Mahindra & Mahindra came out with innovative idea of Minimum Assured Price (MAP) in pulses segment to be piloted in Arusha, Tanzania. This is first of its kind concept in pulses segment, which guarantees farmers a minimum price based on the cost of production plus a fair profit margin. Under SITA, Kingori SACCOS, a Tanzanian farmers’ organization is shortlisted for this pilot project. Under this unique model, Mahindra and Kingori SACCOS have agreed on a minimum price based on the cost of production plus a fair profit margin. So it is not that India left the farmers of Tanzania in a lurch.

The pulse exporting countries have completely forgotten that they used to monitor the Indian market conditions closely and happily jack up the export prices the moment they use to figure out low production of pulses in India.

Coming back to pulse production, it is important to understand what happened in 2018 that the pulse producers are up in arm against India?

Following table listing the pulse production and pulse import over the years, has the answer.

 

Pulses Production Vs Imports (million tonnes)
Financial Year Production Imports
2000 – 01 11.06 0.35
2005 – 06 13.38 1.70
2010 – 11 18.24 2.70
2013 – 14 19.25 3.66
2014 – 15 17.15 4.58
2015 – 16 16.35 5.80
2016 – 17 23.13 6.61
2017 – 18 24.51 5.65

The pulse production in India has grown by 50% in last two years, which is leading to cut in imports. In the year 2018-19, the reduction in imports will be visible more starkly and one will be able to understand why pulse exporters to India are up in arms.

The research paper ‘Changing Consumption Patterns and Roles of Pulses in Nutrition, and Future Demand Projections’ for the International Food Policy Research Institute at Washington, by Praduman Kumar, P K Joshi and Shinoj Parappurathu has estimated the likely demand for pulses in India till 2030 will upset the pulse exporting nations further. As per the paper the total domestic pulses demand under three different income growth scenarios are as follows:

  • At current GDP growth rates, the demand is expected to go up to 21.87 mt in 2020 and 26.58 mt by 2030.
  • If GDP growth is “low” (25% below existing rates), the demand would rise to only 21.40 mt in 2020 and 25.22 mt in 2030.
  • The corresponding numbers in a “high” growth scenario (25% above current rates) are 22.36 mt and 28.07 mt, respectively.

Harish Damodaran commenting on the report says “There are two important things to note here. The first is that the 23-24 mt pulses production achieved by India in the last two years already exceeds the 22.36 mt demand projected in the Washington-based institute’s study. Secondly, even if output were not to rise further over the next decade, the country will not have to import more than four mt annually in 2030. If production increases the way it has in the last two years, India, far from being an importer, may even end up being a net exporter of pulses.

So the government has not only solved the pulses problem in short term but also for future. Before understanding what Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government did, let us look into what was wrong with pulse production in India.

As per Prof Ashok Vishandass, “Since 1966, pulse crops have been neglected with the agricultural policy environment favouring the spread of green revolution technology to a few crops such as paddy and wheat for food security reasons, crowding out pulse production.

 Phosphorus deficiency is one of the most widespread soil fertility problems in pulses. Pulses fix nitrogen nutrient by themselves and thus do not require urea. Given that urea is the only fertiliser which is controlled and sold at subsidised notified sale price, pulse cultivators are implicitly excluded from fertiliser subsidy regime.”

The above is just an example of what was majorly wrong with pulse production. The government took lot of steps to solve the problem in a holistic way. Following is a glimpse of some of the steps taken by the government in 2016.

  • In 2016 when pulses price were sky rocketing government took lot of steps, apart from importing pulses without any import duty.
  • The government offered a step hike in MSP
  • Under National Food Security Mission Rs 1,630 Crore were allocated out of which the central government has allocated Rs. 1,100 Crore and Rs 430 Crore were allocated by state governments. Of this amount allocated for NFSM, 15% goes for production of new varieties of pulses.
  • During UPA tenure, grant being given through state governments for distribution of new seeds varieties was Rs.12 per kg till 2013-14, which was increased to Rs.25 per kg from the year 2014-15.
  • For expansion of cultivation of new kinds of seeds, Rs.7.85 lakh mini-kits were distributed to farmers free of cost in the year 2016-17, through state governments.
  • In the year 2016-17, demonstration of new techniques for pulse production was carried out in 31,000 hectares by 534 KVKs through ICAR and State Agriculture Universities and Rs 25.29 Crore were allocated for this purpose.
  • Seed Hubs were created through different organisation like ICAR, State Agriculture Universities and KVKs for ensuring the availability of new kinds of seeds.
  • In three years 150 seed centres were to be established and availability of 1.50 lakh quintal improved seeds was to be ensured by Central Government. For this purpose, Rs.139.50 crore was approved for establishment of 93 seed centers during 2016-17 to 2017-18, out of which Rs 80.44 Crore was for 2016-17.
  • The government worked for new variety of pulses crops. To increase the availability of new types of breeder seeds of pulses, ICAR Institute and State Agriculture Universities have been provided Rs. 20.39 crore during 2016-17. The government is also concentrating towards the procurement of pulse crops. Inter Cropping of pulses with oil seeds, cotton and other crops, summer moong and cultivation of tur dal on paddy fields is being encouraged.
  • The government is encouraging Farmer Producer Organisations (FPO) to grow seeds, to buy, and to use efficient technology and to ensure adequate prices to small and marginal farmers for their produce.
  • A new variety of pulse (pigeon pea) called PUSA Arhar 16 developed by ICAR-IARI, N Delhi was released. The variety is extra early maturing, semi-dwarf (95 cm to 120 cm tall), determinate, high yielding variety and will be available to farmers from next Kharif season. While the traditional varieties take 170 days to mature this new variety take less time to mature that is 120 days only. This plant type allows dense plant population of 330,000 plants per hectare when planted with Row X Row spacing of 30 cm and Plant X Plant spacing of 10 cm. High density planting is important to realize higher yield and mechanization. Traditional varieties do not allow high density planting as their plant type is indeterminate and spreading type. All items of farm machinery used for wheat from sowing to harvesting are fully utilizable for cultivation of NPT Arhar.

The government waged a war on all fronts against pulses and it has succeeded but the war is yet to be won.

In the 2015-16 crop year (July-June), a mere 1.19 lakh tonnes (lt) of pulses were procured under the Price Stabilisation Fund set up by the Narendra Modi government: 50,422.53 tonnes during kharif and 69,049.08 tonnes in the rabi marketing season.

In 2016-17, procurement by the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (NAFED), Food Corporation of India and Small Farmers’ Agribusiness Consortium rose over 13 times to 15.62 lt. That included 14.74 lt of kharif pulses (11.66 lt tur, 2.20 lt moong and 0.89 lt urad) and 0.87 lt of rabi pulses (0.60 lt chana and 0.27 lt masur).

In the current year, procurement, which is ongoing, is set to further double. NAFED, the only government agency now procuring under the so-called Price Support Scheme (PSS), has till now bought 14.59 lt of chana, 8.58 lt of tur, 2.95 lt of moong, 2.03 lt of urad and 1.36 lt of masoor. That adds up to around 29.50 lt. The final figure could well cross 30 lt – unprecedented as far as pulses go.

But unlike for wheat and paddy for which there are time tested established systems the actual process of procurement has been far from smooth in the case of pulses. But one can be rest assured that the government will solve this issue also as early as possible.

Apart from procurement, tweaking in policy is also needed further development. Prof Ashok Vishandass suggests, “Pulses play an important role in maintaining soil health as they have unique ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen, which enhances soil fertility and productivity. Therefore, farmers growing pulses can be given a direct incentive for their contribution towards positive externality in the form of nitrogen fixation. To create crop-neutral incentive structures for farmers, which at present are skewed against pulses, pulse cultivators need to be given a cash subsidy equivalent to average implicit subsidy per hectare on urea, which works out to about Rs. 4,000 per hectare.”

He further says “Pulses are highly vulnerable to pests and diseases whereas processed dal (split and polished) is not. In the absence of mini dal mills in rural areas, pulses are transported to mills in the urban areas for processing into dal and then it comes back to villages for consumption. This involves avoidable storage, fumigation and transportation costs. In view of this, it is desirable to popularize mini dal mills at village level, which will help steady supply of pulses in rural areas and will consequently ease out supply constraint at macro level.”

Mini dal (pulse) mills make lot of sense and they can be integrated into Make in India scheme. Government has already provided electricity in every village, villages have been connected with road, so mini dal mills in villages is doable. These mills will make the farmer free from the clutches of Minimum Support Price and few farmers might import the pulses, from Tanzania process them here and export it. That will be true victory over the pulse war.

Who knows, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government might be working on it already, till then one must note a few points.

India has a large number of vegetarians and pulses are biggest source of protein. So high pulse production means availability of the same at cheaper rate i.e. pulses will be available to the poor which, in turn will contribute to reducing malnutrition in India and building a healthy India.

Recently when the Prime Minister of Canada, Trudeau, visited India the issue of pulse trade was high on agenda. Now India is in a position to dictate terms to a few nations on foreign policy. So, in the end, India is not only winning the pulse war but lot of other wars along with it.

References:

  1. A new problem of plenty: Protein excess by Parthasarathi Biswas, 11 July 2018, Indian Express
  2. Does growth in pulses output mean India has reached self-sufficiency? Harish Damodaran, 31 May 2018, Indian Express
  3. India Import Ban on Tanzania Pigeon peas: When a Winner Looses All’ by Zirack Andrew, The Pulse Pod, January 2018
  4. Steps taken to increase pulse production, Press release, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmer Welfare, 13 July 2016
  5. “Indian Tariffs Unhelpful to Pulse Trade” by Pulse Australia, The Pulse Pod, January 2018
  6. A Path Forward For Pulses”, by Gordon Bacon, The Pulse Pod, January 2018
  7. Pulses in India – Diagnosis of Low Production And A Policy Prescription Towards Self Sufficeincy by Prof Ashok Vishandass, The Pulse Pod, January 2018.
  8. Price cushioning for pulses farmers through Minimum Assured Price (MAP) by Dharmendra Pothuri, General Manager-Africa Agribusiness, Mahindra & Mahindra, Kenya, The Pulse Pod, March 2017
  9. Pulse Market on Fire in India – Government moves fail to douse By G. Chandrashekhar, The Pulse Pod, March 2017
  10. The pulse Pood , November 2016

 

About the author

SANDEEP SINGH

Sandeep Singh is an author and political analyst. Tweets from @communalsandeep

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1 Comment

  • Brilliant article on an excellent performance by Modi Govt. on pulses front. In 2015, when prices of pulses shot up, minions like Digvijaya Singh ridiculed PM Modi for mismanaging pulses !!
    These ardent enemies of the nation must be thoroughly silenced and their anti-national activities exposed.