A senior agriculture ministry official told Business Standard the department had proposed a 10 per cent duty on chana and also recommended freeing exports of all other varieties of pulses as prices had declined in the past few weeks.
The ministry’s view was however countered by the consumer affairs department, which argued that imposing an import duty at this juncture might have an impact in the coming months, especially given that chana acreage in the current rabi season is less than last year.
Besides, no decision has been taken yet on allowing bulk exports of all varieties of pulses and edible oils. There has been a ban on these exports, except for chickpea (kabuli chana) and organically grown ones.
A sudden spurt in prices of pulses could have an impact on Delhi state elections which are due around February.
Chana is currently trading in some parts of the country below the government’s minimum support price of Rs 3,100 a quintal. However, prices could rise in the coming months as the crop has been planted in around 7.8 million hectares till last week, as compared with 9.1 million hectares in the corresponding period of last year.
In 2013-14, India’s production of chana was 9.9 million tonnes (mt), up from 8.8 mt the previous year India typically imports three to four million tonnes of various varieties of pulses annually.
India imports chickpeas and dried peas from Australia and Tanzania. Domestic production of 'chana' is mostly concentrated on 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, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh had said earlier.
"There was a 13 per cent shortfall in the monsoon rain. It is natural there would be some impact on rabi crops but it will not be significant," the minister said recently.
According to the latest data, all rabi crops have been sown in 53 mn Ha so far this season, as against 55.7 mn ha a year before.