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After steps to curb scarcity, Centre has problem of plenty; price may dip below `120/ kg in amonth

AFTER a prolonged spell of pulse poverty, the Centre is now striving to store an embarrassment of riches.

About 1.76 lakh tonnes of imported stock coupled with a lack of interest from states to pick up their allotted share have left the government weighing its options to stow the supply. Apart from this, domestic procurement has also reached 1.20 lakh tonnes.

India is the world's largest producer of pulses, but still has to import thirtyforty lakh tonnes a year to meet its growing domestic demand. Back- toback droughts had pushed up prices of the staple food, an important source of protein in the Indian diet.

The issue of bumper harvest and falling prices of pulses was discussed in a meeting

Continued from page 01 at the Prime Minister's Office on Tuesday and a day later the Centre directed the agencies Nafed and SFAC to gear up for procurement at the minimum support price apart from a bonus for cultivators.

Traders say farmers have been complaining about not getting fair rates from the market for their new crop due to the abundant yield expected this season.

" Pulse prices have started falling in mandis," said consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan while talking to media. " In case of moong ( green gram), prices have gone below the MSP level in some places.

We are going to start the MSP operation." The produce will be procured at the minimum support price to protect the interest of farmers who have sown lentils in a big way with production likely to hit two crore tonnes, he said. The figure last year was 1.6 crore tonnes.

The fresh yield of pulses has started arriving and traders say more supply will flood the markets in the coming days.

Wholesale prices of the staple have been plummeting steadily, already registering about a 40- 50 per cent drop over the past month. Retail prices will also go down in the coming days and traders say rates may reach ` 120 a kg in a few weeks.

Officials say the government has enough room to stow pulses in warehouses, but the management of such a huge stock is a worry.

The Kharif season sowing is near completion, with the area under pulses rising by about 33 per cent to 142.02 lakh hectares, from 106.92 lakh hectares in the same period last season, on the back of a good monsoon and higher market price.

Traders argue that no one will even look at imported pulses after the arrival of new domestic produce in the markets.

" Fresh crops of moong have already arrived in mandi and other varieties will also come in the next few weeks," said Hariom Gupta, a merchant from Naya Bazar in Old Delhi. " The government is selling pulses at ` 120 a kg and in a few months retail prices might reach that level." A senior official from the consumer affairs ministry said over 40,000 tonnes of supply have been allotted to several states to sell at cheaper rates, but they have not picked up their shares.

" Only a few states have shown interest despite many communications in this regard and just about 6,000 tonnes have been taken," he said.

For instance, tur dal is provided to states at the rate of ` 67 a kg and urad at ` 82/ kg.

Officials say the Centre is looking for options to liquidate the stock and had floated tenders for this. However, those were cancelled as the prices offered were extremely low.

The government purchased the un- milled pulses domestically at about ` 76 a kg while the price offered was around ` 60- 65 a kg. Also, the government had to spend ` 104 a kg on imported lentils.

Govt is exploring options to liquidate the stock and float new tenders

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Sep 3, 2016
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