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India's trade policy on pulses needs to be stable: Canadian minister

Press Trust of India  |  Lonavala (Pune) 

India's trade policy on pulses needs to be "consistent and transparent", the agriculture minister of a Canadian province said on Thursday.

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

"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," Davis Marit, the agriculture minister of Saskatchewan, the largest pulses growing province of Canada, said in his address at the fifth pulses conclave organised by Indian Pulses and Grains Association (IPGA) here.

Trade restrictions imposed by India on pulses imports has forced his province to explore other markets like China, Japan, the UAE and Bangladesh, Marit told reporters later.

IPGA Chairman Jitu Bheda also stressed on 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.

Since 2017, quantitative restrictions have been imposed on some varieties of 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 tonnes 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 per cent from the current level of 10 per cent, he said adding that there is demand for protein-rich commodities from other countries.

With a cut in India's pulses imports, the IPGA chairman mentioned that 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 farmers and consumers interest and actions are flexible enough to react to ground realities swiftly," he added.

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

According Mumbai-based pulses importer Lalji Harjit and Sons Managing Director Navin Nandu, India still needs to depend on import of some pulses like pigeon peas (tur).

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

Experts also said India's trade policy should be kept open with some checks and balances in view of low per capita consumption of pulses at 14 kg and the production is still dependent on rainfed farming.

India largely imports pulses from Canada, Australia and African nations.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, February 13 2020. 16:46 IST