New Delhi: After procuring 50,000 tonnes of pulses for buffer stock, Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan on Tuesday asked the states to place their requirement so that the lentils can be offloaded in the market to check prices.
The government has decided to import 20,000 tonnes of pulses. Of which, the contracts have been finalised for 6,000 tonnes, he said.
Retail prices of pulses are still ruling high at Rs 160-170 per kg in most places even as the rates have cooled down from the peak of Rs 210 per kg last year, following a slew of measures including crackdown on hoarders.
"In this budget, there is an increased allocation for Price Stabilization Fund (PSF) to Rs 900 crore from Rs 500 crore last year. This will help to check prices of essential commodities, especially of pulses," Paswan told reporters.
Earlier, PSF was part of Agriculture Ministry. It has now been shift to the Consumer Affairs Ministry, he added.
Stating that the government has taken the issue of pulses "seriously", the Minister said, "We have procured 50,000 tonnes of pulses in this kharif season. The Centre has no infrastructure to sell it in the market. At the end of the day, states have to lift it. I request all states to give their requirement at the earliest."
Of 50,000 tonnes procured from the kharif season, 45,000 tonnes is tur dal and the rest is urad.
Going forward, Paswan said that the government will buy additional one lakh tonnes of pulses, mainly gram and masoor dals, from the rabi season.
"All steps are being taken to ensure there is no panic on dal issue this time, he added.
Besides buffer stock of pulses, Paswan said the government has plans to import 20,000 tonnes of pulses this year. Already, the tender for 6,000 tonnes has been finalised and the bids for rest of the quantity would be opened soon.
The government is using PSF for creating buffer stock and import of pulses and other essential commodities so that to intervene in the market to check prices.
To ensure that prices of pulses do not flare up any further, central security agencies including Intelligence Bureau and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence have been asked to keep a close watch on tur, urad and gram traders to check speculation and hoarding.
Despite several steps, pulses prices are expected to remain firm this year as well because production is unlikely to increase significantly because of drought for the second straight year.
As per the Agriculture Ministry's second estimate, pulses production is estimated at 17.33 million tonnes in 2015-16 crop year (July-June), marginally higher than the previous year's production of 17.15 million tonnes.
India is the world's largest producer of pulses, but its domestic demand outstrips production. The shortfall is met from imports.