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Pulse Rate: India’s trade policy on pulses needs to be stable, says Canada

Nanda Kasabe
trade, economy

India’s trade policy on pulses needs to be "consistent and transparent", Davis Marit, the agriculture minister of Saskatchewan, the largest pulses producing province of Canada, said on Thursday
Speaking on the sidelines of the fifth Pulses Conclave organised by the Indian Pulses and Grains Association (IPGA), Marit said that China, Vietnam, Japan, UAE and Bangladesh have emerged as new markets for his province following the trade restrictions imposed by India.

Canada is one of the major supplier of pulses to India.

In 2017 ,China imported 40% more yellow peas from the province and there is a growing demand from West Asia and the US.

"We recognise challenges lately with some import tariff. Any disturbance in policy will have a long-term impact. We should have a consistent and transparent trade policy," he said.

Since 2017, quantitative restrictions have been imposed on pulses like peas to contain imports and protect domestic farmers. The government is encouraging local farmers to grow more by ensuring a minimum support price and procurement.

India is the world's largest producer and consumer of pulses. The pulses production was 23.40 million tonne in 2018-19 crop year (July-June) against the annual demand of around 26 million tonne. The government has set a target 26 million tonne for this year. Canada has been one of the largest suppliers of pulses mainly lentils and yellow peas to India.

Marit said pulses export from Saskatchewan to India has been declining gradually since 2015 and has come down to $329 million Canadian dollar in 2019 calendar year from $1.5 billion Canadian dollar. Besides other markets, Saskatchewan is looking at increasing pulses processing up to 50 % from the current level of 10 %, he said, adding that there is demand for protein-rich commodities from other countries. Despite the change in India's tariff regime, there has been no significant change in the cropping pattern of farmers in his province.

IPGA chairman Jitu Bheda underlined the need for a "flexible" trade policy for pulses to deal with frequent short supplies of a particular variety and consequent price spurts. He noted that such a situation cannot be ruled out as already has been experienced recently in the case of urad and moong.

He pointed out that with a cut in India's pulses imports, global suppliers must be facing difficulties but they have to live up to the changing trade balances.

"The fact remains that much of pulses production in India is rain-fed and hence subject to weather vagaries. Frequent short supplies of pulses of a particular kind and consequent price spurts cannot be ruled out. We have already experienced this recently in case of urad and moong beans. It is therefore important that "the government strikes a balance between farmer and consumer interest and actions are flexible enough to react to ground realities swiftly," Bheda said.

The country's pulses imports have come down to 2-2.5 million tonne now from a record level of 5.7 million tonne in 2015-16 on substantial increase in domestic production, he said.

India imports around 700,000 tonne of tur dal annually from Africa and Myanmar.