This article has been modified; please read the correction at the end
Brace for a push to India’s annual edible oil and pulse import bill, due to an expected domestic shortfall following uneven rains, along with a spike in international commodity prices. The bill could rise by 10 per cent in the current financial year, experts said.
“In 2011-2012, we imported Rs 55,000 crore worth of pulses and edible oils and this year it is expected to easily cross Rs 60,000 crore. There is an urgent need to develop the domestic availability of edible oil," Ashok Gulati, chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, told Business Standard.
B V Mehta, executive director of the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India, said he expected edible oil imports in the next crop season that will start from November to reach 9.5-10 million tonnes, as against the earlier estimate of 9.1-9.2 mt. In 2011-2012, about Rs 55,000 crore of edible oils and pulses were imported, of which the share of pulses was Rs 8,767 crore. Mehta said the pulses import bill was expected to touch Rs 10,000 crore and that of edible oils around Rs 50,000 crore in 2012-2013. In 2011-2012, India imported around three mt of pulses. This year, it is expected to cross 4-4.5 mt. “India’s domestic consumption of pulses is around 20 mt and last year we produced around 17 mt, which this year is expected to fall, necessitating more import,” said Badruddin, assistant vice president of Indiabulls Ltd.
The southwest monsoon, the lifeline of Indian agriculture, has been less than normal in almost 60 per cent of the country this year, pulling down sowing of major kharif crops. The biggest hit has been to coarse cereals, pulses and oilseeds (mainly groundnut). The government has announced a comprehensive drought-relief package worth Rs 2,000 crore for the main deficient rainfall-affected states. “The drop in coarse cereals can be made up from grains, as both are interchangeable, but pulses and oilseeds remain a cause of worry,” Gulati said.
The latest data from the agriculture ministry shows the area under pulses till last week was 21 per cent less than the normal (the average of the past five years) sown during the same period, while that of oilseeds, mainly groundnut, was around 28 per cent less than the normal area.
“The big problem in pulses is that not only is the kharif season’s production expected to be less, but pipeline stocks are also empty, mainly of chana (gram), as last year’s production, too, was not up to the mark, “ said Vedika Narvekar, senior research analyst at Angel Broking. In 2011-2012, India produced 17.21 mt of pulses, 5.6 per cent less than the previous year, while total oilseeds production was 30 mt, around 7.5 per cent less than the previous year.
“We (private pulses traders) cannot import in large quantities if domestic prices do not move up or international markets do not soften a bit," said Pravin Dongre, chairman of the India Pulses and Grains Association.
It was wrongly mentioned in this article that K C Bhartiya is the chairman of the India Pulses and Grains Association. Pravin Dongre is the chairman of the association. This has been corrected. The error is regretted.