To protect farmers from sliding pulses’ prices, the agriculture ministry has proposed a 10 per cent import duty on gram (chana).
It has also recommended lifting the ban on export of all varieties of pulses and bulk export of edible oils, a senior official said.
Chana is presently trading below the government’s minimum support price of Rs 3,100 a quintal in some parts.
The proposed tariff on chana might face some opposition in the government, from those who feel any raising of duties on pulses and allowing its export would push up prices. At present, pulses are imported at zero duty across the board for any category. Similarly, export of pulses is prohibited, except for chickpea (kabuli chana) and organically grown ones.
The country annually imports three to four million tonnes of various varieties of pulses. In the 2013-14 crop year, production of chana, a rabi crop, was 9.88 million tonnes, up from 8.83 mt the previous year. In the ongoing rabi season, chana sowing is underway and so far the coverage is lower at 7.78 million hectares, as compared with 9.06 mn ha last year.
India imports chickpeas and dried peas from Australia and Tanzania. Domestic production of chana is mostly concentrated in the central and southern parts of India.
Production of rabi crops, especially of wheat, pulses and oilseeds, is expected to fall marginally in 2014-15 due to lower sowing, says Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh.
“There was a 13 per cent shortfall in monsoon rain. It is natural there would be some impact on rabi crops but it will not be significant,” he told reporters.
According to the latest data, rabi crops have been sown in 53 mn ha so far this season, as against 55.7 mn ha a year before.