New Delhi: To help tame spiralling pulse prices that have hit Rs 200 per kg, traders have signed contracts to import about 3 million tonnes of lentils so far this year worth about USD 2 billion as domestic demand spikes.
Retail pulse prices have been on an upward trajectory as its output is estimated to have declined to 17.06 million tonnes (mt) in 2015-16 crop year (July-June) due to successive droughts while domestic demand hovers around 23-24 mt.
"Last year the traders had imported a record 5.79 mt of pulses. This year, they have so far contracted to import 3 mt, which is expected to start arriving from August till December. It will include yellow peas, chana, masoor and tur," Indian Pulses and Grains Association Vice-Chairman Bimal Kothari told PTI.
Yellow peas will come from Canada and European countries, chana from Australia, masoor from Canada and Australia and tur from East Africa and Myanmar, he said, pegging the overall value of pulse import at close to USD 2 billion.
Out of the total 3 mt, the traders have entered into contracts to import about 12-15 lakh tonnes of yellow peas, 5-7 lakh tonnes of chana, 4 lakh tonnes of masoor and 2-3 lakh tonnes of tur.
Asked about overall import this fiscal, he said it would depend on total sowing area which is likely to increase on forecast of a better monsoon and higher support price.
"IMD had already predicted good monsoon and at the same time, the government has also declared higher support prices. So, the prospects are bright for a bumper crop of lentils this year," Kothari said.
Kothari found it hard to buy the theory that hoarding takes place under such a strict surveillance. The pulse prices have increased simply because of a huge gap in demand and domestic production.
Although the government has put pulse production at about 17 mt, Kothari said the trade estimate is around 15 mt as against the annual demand of 23-24 mt. "So, there is a huge gap," he added.
He also said the association is working closely with the states and the Centre to keep the price rise in check and has suggested creation of a buffer stock of at least 20 lakh tonnes of pulses for market intervention