Record 16.5 Million tonne pulses production likely this year Mechanism for Regular Import of Pulses being evolved: Shri Pawar

for Ministry of Agriculture | Date - 05-12-2010

India is likely to harvest a record 16.5 million tonne pulses this year. This was announced by the Agriculture Minister, Shri Sharad Pawar, at the 6th Agriwatch Global Pulses Summit here today.

The Minister said that though India presently imports a large quantity of pulses, the use of new production technologies and agronomic practices, and government support will lead to self sufficiency.

Shri Pawar said that more aggressive promotion of available technologies is being done under the Accelerated Pulses Production Program. Minimum Support Price of the pulses has been significantly increased. The minimum support price has been doubled in last three year with quantum jump given this year with an increase of more than 50%. Pulses procurement mechanism has been strengthened by designating additional central agencies to support the farmers.

So as to ensure availablility and check the prices of pulses, the government is in the process of evolving a mechanism to work out regular tenders on import of pulses through the State Agencies, the Minister said.

The following is the full text of the speech of the Minister:

Friends, I am delighted to be here at this very important global summit on pulses being organized by Agriwatch. The 6th edition of this summit is extremely topical as over the last couple of years pulses has come to occupy a very important place in our agricultural landscape. The spurt in price of pulses since 2008 has propelled us to become proactive both in terms of production and trade. I am sure the deliberations at the summit will give a further boost to our efforts at making pulses available at affordable rates and in ample quantities to every Indian, for whom it is the main source of protein. With growing population, sustained and inclusive economic growth and commitment of the government to ensure food and nutritional security for all its citizens, the demand for pulses in India is bound to increase further. Added to it is the growing realization in India and world over that for sustainable development from environmental point of view, it is important to promote pulses as against consumption of meat products.

At the outset itself I would like to mention that my take on the issue is slightly different from what the organisers have chosen as the theme of the summit. I am of the considered opinion that it is not only Indians but the whole world which needs to consume more pulses. I say this based on certain scientific observations which have clearly established pulses as having the highest percentage of protein as compared to any other vegetarian or non vegetarian source of protein. Not only that, it also has a high level of fibre and anti oxidants which help in efficient metabolism of food and better cardio vascular physiology.

From the environmental point of view also, consumption of pulses is more beneficial than meat products. As you might be knowing Pulses are the most efficient natural foods for production of proteins. They are primary producers of proteins harnessing natural elements like sunlight, soil nutrients and water. Cattle and Pigs on the other hand, consume 7 kg and 4 kg of grains to produce 1 kg of beef and pork respectively.

Moving on from generic issues and looking at the pulse scenario in Indian particular, we need to recognize that the domestic supply of pulses is not able to meet the growing demand of our consumers. Availability, price and the dietary preference for specific types of pulses in different parts of the country is largely responsible for this. About 23 million hectares of land is under pulses cultivation in India producing about 15 million tons of pulses annually. We still need to import about 2-3 million tons of pulses every year to meet the demand.

We are the largest producer of pulses in the world but our demand outstrips our domestic production because of which we have to resort to imports every year. However, if we look at the profile of pulses crops I find that there is very little surplus available in the world for supply of Red gram, Black gram and Green Gram. In fact, there is very little production of these crops outside of India. But, these are the crops that are preferred especially in the South and the Central India. It is a challenge for us to ensure supply of these pulses as these crops are primarily taken up for cultivation during monsoon period and are prone to production losses due to moisture stress. In fact during the drought 2009 in India, we tried to bridge the demand supply gap for red gram by promoting usage of Yellow peas. I understand that the market also responded to the gap by ‘manufacturing’ i-dhal with ingredients that included red gram, soybean, maize and wheat flour.

Two main issues come to my mind, when we talk of pulses production. First, the limited genetic potential for high yields and second their vulnerability to pests and diseases.

Compared to other food grains crops, yield potential of the pulses has been rather low. Added to this is the problem of either too small a crop cycle like lentils and black gram or too long a crop cycle for red gram. Newer varieties need to be developed so that the crop cycle fits into overall cropping system that the farmer takes during the year. Another issue of importance is the limited mechanization potential especially for harvesting of the crop. Plants need to be made sturdier and the pods should emerge on the crop head for easy operations of the harvesters. I know some varieties have been developed for some of the pulses like Black gram but there is a lot more that is expected from research and development efforts to increase the yields, make optimum crop cycle and for ease of farming operations.

Due to the high protein content in pulses, the crop is highly vulnerable to pests and diseases. It is estimated that about 30 % of pulses crops is lost on account of pest attacks and diseases every year. Attack by pod borer and pod fly is so ferocious that the entire standing crop is devastated at times. We need to show urgency in our research efforts possibly by employing modern biotechnological tools for developing pest resistant varieties of pulses.

Another problem peculiar to the Indo Gangetic plains is the menace of large scale grazing by Blue bulls. There is no single solution that could contain this menace. We need to support the efforts of the farmers for higher acreage under pulses crops without contravening the legal provisions of the Wild Life Protection Act which prohibits killing of these animals. There is thus a huge possibility and potential of bringing innovative solutions to save the pulses crops and encourage more intensive promotion of production technologies.

Besides varietal research, we need to address the issues relating to farmers’ preference for the competing crops to pulses through development and promotion of crop production and crop protection technologies. Under National Food Security Mission, we have taken up these aspects for more aggressive promotion of available technologies under Accelerated Pulses Production Program to ensure that the farmers are able to harvest better crops. We have significantly increased the Minimum Support Price of the pulses and strengthened pulses procurement mechanism by designating additional central agencies to support the farmers. In fact, the minimum support price has been doubled in last three year with quantum jump given this year with an increase of more than 50 %.

On the technology front, we have involved international agencies like ICRISAT and ICARDA to develop better technological solutions to make Pulses crops more productive to the farmers. Use of drip irrigation in red gram, agronomic practices like transplantation and nipping of branches for red gram are showing very encouraging results. This year, as per our initial assessment, we are going to achieve our production targets with an all time record production of 16.5 million tons. This production will meet the domestic demand of pulses and make India self sufficient in Pulses without hopefully any need for imports. These developments need not dampen the trading community, especially the international trade representatives present here or elsewhere. Despite the expected increased production of pulses to 16.5 million tonnes, we are still far short of the projected demand of nearly 25-30 million tonnes over the next decade. Our aim is to grow more pulses, manage more pulses and sell more pulses. Your role in this whole chain is key to its success. Your ability to leverage the global market and provide the domestic market is indeed commendable and I am certain that India will give you continued opportunity I am aware that interstate policies on duties, taxes and tariffs act as impediments for seamless movement of pulses, but let me assure you that the government is doing its very best to evolve an all India consensus on agricultural trade and marketing. We will be happy to get feedback from you on this to further fine tune our policies.

To clear any misgivings about our import policy vis-a-vis pulses, I must mention that our import policies are linked to our ability for better crop forecasts and the principle of balancing the farmer’s interest in a manner that the prices are not distorted and the Indian farmer continues to get a good return for their produce. We are in the process of evolving a mechanism to work out regular tenders on import of pulses through the State Agencies. This will hopefully help in better planning and management of supply chain.

In fact I would welcome Public – Private initiatives for better logistics planning and handling of pulses – in movement of rail rakes, development of market yards, storage and warehousing as well as communication networks. I

Another issue, which the delegates here could ponder upon is the viability of Indians leasing land abroad for growing pulses and exporting it back to India. I am told some enterprising people are already doing this in Africa and South America. Such efforts need to be supported. While as a government we would not invest in buying land in other countries, my Ministry can definitely act as a facilitator if the private players show interest in this.

I am confident that with better yields, development of pest resistant and hardier varieties and increased MSP support and lessons learnt from exchange of knowledge, the Indian farmer will definitely take to pulses with increased acreage and ease the supply side constraint which the country faces today.

I would like to conclude by saying that it is indeed heartening that issues relating to Pulses are being discussed among National and International Participants concerned with promotion of Pulses. I believe that we all need to work together to promote pulses to all consumers in India and abroad for improving their nutritional status and for sustainable development. We need to ensure that the pulses are available in the quantities demanded for all its crop types, they are affordable and easily accessible through value addition in better handling and product diversification. I assure all the participants here that we will earnestly attempt to resolve any issues that emerge at the end of the deliberations in the Summit.


(This is an archive of the press release and has not been edited by our staff.)