New Delhi: India needs to import 65 lakh tonnes of pulses this year to meet the domestic shortfall, Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said today and assured that the government will not allow prices to rise in any circumstances.
Noting that the country did not produce enough pulses in 2015, there was a demand for around 215 lakh tonnes of pulses. The country produced around 170 lakh tonnes while 45 lakh tonnes were imported, he added.
"This year we will require 65 lakh tonnes of pulses to be imported," the Minister said during the Question Hour in Lok Sabha.
The country has imported 55.5 lakh tonnes of pulses till March 1 of this fiscal as against 45.8 lakh tonnes in the entire previous fiscal. Pulses imports are largely done by the private players.
Pulses production is estimated at 17.33 million tonnes in 2015-16 crop year (July-June) while demand is pegged at 23.66 million tonnes.
Paswan said the government would not allow the prices of pulses to go up under any circumstances and stringent action would be taken if that happens.
"This year, under no circumstances we will allow the prices of pulses go up. If it happens, we will take stringent action," he said, adding action would be taken to ensure that no hoarding takes place.
"We have been taking action against hoarders. We have asked all states to take necessary action so that no hoarding take place anywhere," he said.
The prices of pulses had surged to about Rs 220 per kg but has softened in recent weeks to Rs 150-160 per kg after government took several steps like creating buffer stock and imports through state-owned MMTC.
There have been incidents when importers buy pulses cheap abroad but store in the ports of that country and brings to India only when the prices are high, he said.
According to Paswan, except pulses, prices of no other item like rice and sugar, have gone up. Though prices of items like tomato and onion have risen, that is temporary.
He said price trends and availability of select essential food items are monitored on a regular basis at the highest level, including by a Committee of Secretaries.