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Home > Business > Business Headline > Commodities

Pulses: India is the largest producer and consumer

Commodity Online | May 03, 2007 11:14 IST

India is the world's largest producer of pulses; but last year the country had to import 1.8 million tones of pulses to meet the growing domestic consumption.

During the year 2006-07, India imported 1.8 million tonnes of various pulses, especially from countries like China, Canada and Australia.

For instance, thje Kolkata Dock System alone handled over a million tonnes of pulses imported from these countries. This was a nearly 90 per cent jump over the previous year and over 50 per cent of the country's total import of pulses.

Despite being the largest producer of the largest varieties of pulses, the demand for consumption of pulses is just growing.

This has led to a spurt in the prices of pulses in markets that have have risen by Rs 5-7 per kg.

Unable to keep prices under control, the Manmohan Singh government has now decided to import a further 1.5 million tonnes of the commodity.

The government has also decided to do away with import duties for pulses till August 1.

India is the world's largest pulse producer accounting for 27-28 per cent of global pulse production. India harvests between 12- 15 million tonnes of pulses each year but the yield has been pretty much static for the last 30 years averaging between 500-600 lb./ acre.

While the green revolution produced a three-fold increase in wheat yields in India, pulses have not received the same level of attention in research. Pulses are grown on dryland during the winter season under less than ideal conditions.

All of the pulses in India are harvested by hand but losses due to insects and storage problems can be significant.

What makes India such an interesting market is that India is best described as a very price sensitive market. There is a great deal of substitutability between pulse crops. If pigeon peas are high priced, more yellow peas will be consumed. If desi chickpeas are low priced, more chickpeas will be consumed.

This dynamic pulse consumption pattern combined with the large, and sometimes variable, domestic production makes Indian market demand difficult to predict on a year-to-year basis.

Last year, the government banned the export of pulses to ensure that people have enough stocks of the commodity to eat.

The ban applied to over 10 types of pulses, guarseed, lentils and split ones too.

The pulses that are covered under the ban are chickpea, dried leguminous vegetables, including shelled ones, peas, black matpe (urad), arhar (pigeon pea), small red beans, broad beans, red kidney beans and split beans.

According to Kailash C Bharatiya, President, Pulses Importers Association, India has been gaining ground in pulses trade during the last two years.

"India had been exporting nearly one lakh tonnes of chickpea (Kabuli chana) to countries in the Gulf and others such as Sri Lanka and Pakistan during the last two years, while other pulses' shipments accounted for about three lakh tones," he pointed out.

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