To keep a tab on arrival and sale of imported pulses in the country, particularly in anticipation of expected shortage in the coming days, the department of commerce has been directed to share data on import through private channels with the ministries of consumer affairs and agriculture.
This would enable both the departments, which are responsible for monitoring pulses prices and its production, to understand the amount of pulses expected to arrive in the country and plan their production schedules accordingly.
A decision to this effect has been taken at a high-level meeting between senior officials from the departments of consumer affairs, food, agriculture, commerce and finance. The meeting was chaired by Union minister for food and consumer affairs Ramvilas Paswan.
Officials said the commerce ministry will share information on the consignments booked, shipped, arrived and also places where they are being stopped to push up prices.
The meeting, which is the first of such interactions planned between senior officials from all ministries and departments, was called in view of the sudden rise in pulses prices.
Officials said more such meetings will be held once a week, as production of pulses is expected to be low in 2015-16 as well. In 2013-14 (July to June), India produced 19.2 million tonnes (mt) of pulses, which fell to 17.38 mt in 2014-15. The Centre expects production in 2015-16 to be around 18.32 mt. However, some people are of the view that it might not reach that level and could remain at 17-17.5 mt.
Paswan also directed officials of the agriculture department to get feedback from states on an informal level, without waiting for the advanced estimates that come every quarter. The agriculture ministry has also been directed to see whether the recent increases in minimum support price (MSP) of pulses has had any effect on ground in making farmers shift from wheat and rice to pulses. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) earlier this month raised the MSP of masoor and gram, the two pulses grown the most during the rabi season, by Rs 250 a quintal.
A bonus of Rs 75 a quintal has also been recommended by the CCEA above the MSP, which, if added, would make a total increase of Rs 325 a quintal in masoor and gram as compared to 2014-15. It had earlier increased the MSP of tur, urad and other pulses.
Officials have also been directed to meet importers to understand their purchasing capacity and also heads of public sector units to analyse their domestic purchasing capacities. The Centre has roped in National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India, Small Farmer Agri-Business Consortium, and State Trading Corporation of India to create a buffer stock of around 400,000 tonnes by either purchasing directly from farmers or through imports.
Prices of pulses, onion, tomato and peas have risen sharply in recent months, hurting household budgets. In the past month, prices of pulses had touched Rs 210 a kg. The Centre imposed stock limits on importers, big processors and traders, alleging that the price rise was because of hoarding.
It conducted nationwide raids on importers and seized over 130,000 tonnes of pulses, the majority from Maharashtra. Prices have softened in the retail market since then.