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Pulse rates to get critical again Prices have jumped by 25%.

A FEW months after they shot through the roof, pulse prices are set to rise again.

In the past two weeks, rates of different varieties of the staple food have jumped by about 25% in wholesale as well as retail markets in the national Capital with traders saying more escalation is likely in the coming days.

The urad dal, which used to sell at ` 130- 140 a kg in retail markets, is now at ` 190- 200 a kg. The wholesale price stands at around ` 180- 190 per kg.

Similarly, the rate of arhar has also gone up to around ` 150 a kg in the wholesale market while gram dal prices have gone up from ` 55 per kg to ` 70.

India is the world's largest producer of pulses, but still has to import three- four million tonnes a year to meet its growing domestic demand. The country brought in 2.23 million tonnes of pulses in the first half of the 2015- 16 fiscal year.

City traders say supply has gone down due to dwindling imports triggered by curbs issued by authorities, leading to costs going up.

" After the control by the government last year, traders have stopped keeping stocks of pulses.

This has led to a gap between demand and supply resulting into price rise," said Ashok Gupta, president of the dal and besan miller association.

Arhar prices skyrocketed during September- October last year and it was selling for over ` 200 a kg in retail markets. To prevent hoarding of pulses and check price rise, the Centre imposed stock limits held by licensed food

processors, importers, exporters as well as large departmental retailers.

Quelling food costs is critical for the NDA government's popular support with a slew of elections slated in key states over the next 18 months.

The price rise is likely to give opposition parties an opportunity to criticise the Narendra Modi administration, which they have repeatedly called " anti- poor". " Traders got scared due to the stringent rules," added Gupta. " Many of them stopped importing pulses due to the stock limit imposed by the government.

Many others stopped doing business." Some merchants suggested that the rates may rise further as farmers have started holding back the produce for a few weeks, hoping for a better price.

" Farmers have become more aware of the prevailing situation through the internet," said Amit Bansal, a wholesale trader in Delhi.

A merchant said traders in Delhi keep about 25 lakh sacks of pulses till April, but this year they have only around 10 lakh sacks, which is less than half of the required stock at this time.

Expecting a second consecutive year of low production that could lead to a spurt in pulse prices, the food ministry wrote to the commerce ministry in City traders supply has down due dwindling imports triggered by issued authorities

December to direct trading firms such as MMTC and STC to quicken the process of imports in a bid to tide over any possible shortfall.

The ministry's request came in the wake of reports that prices of pulses -- mainly arhar and moong -- could once again flare up in 2016 because of little improvement in domestic production compared to 2015. Officials said production of pulses in 2015- 16 ( July- June) is expected to be much below the earlier estimate of around 18 million tonnes because of poor sowing of rabi crops, mainly masur.

The production in 2014- 15 was 17.38 mt, almost 10% less than the previous year.

In retail markets, prices crossed Rs 200 per kg in October due to a fall in domestic output. Though retail prices of pulses cooled down because of government intervention, rates have started to rise again.

City traders say has gone due to dwindling imports triggered by curbs issued by authorities

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Apr 18, 2016
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