Pulse price rise: Government blames states, sets up panel for higher MSP, bonus

New Delhi, July 11 (IANS) The central government on Monday blamed states for continued increase in prices of pulses while Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan assured that there will be a drop in costs in next 2-3 months.

As part of a major decision to bring ease to the consumers, a ministerial team headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday decided to set up a high-level committee to consider a “reasonable increase” in minimum support price (MSP) for pulses and bonus for farmers, in a bid to encourage them to opt for enhanced cultivation of pulses.

The panel headed by Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian has been given two weeks time to submit its report.

“Prices will come down in the next 2-3 months. According to the Agriculture Ministry’s report, pulse output is expected to go up to 20 million tonnes this year. This is higher than last year’s production of 17 million tonnes,” Paswan told reporters after the meeting of the ministerial committee.

India is largest producer of pulses but also largest consumer and a very large importer. The country is on average facing a shortage of 7.6 million tonnes of pulses. Domestic output in 2015-16 stood at 17 million tonnes while annual demand is estimated to be 24.6 million tonnes. In crop year 2016-17, the government is expecting increase in production nevertheless.

Blaming the states for their indifference towards procurement, Paswan said: “There is lacklustre attitude of state governments, the image of the central government is being tarnished. I am making repeated appeal to all states to lift pulses from us.”

The issue also figured in the ministerial committee meeting.

At the meeting, Paswan said that the central government can provide “more pulses” to the states – ‘tur’ at Rs 66 per kg and ‘urad’ at Rs 82 – for retail distribution, while the ministerial committee expressed concern over prices of chana dal.

“It was the opinion of the committee that the state governments should take strict action to ensure its availability at reasonable prices as there is good production and arrival of chana,” an official spokesman said.

To address domestic shortage the ministerial committee meeting attended also by Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh, Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu and Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman decided to increase the buffer stocks to 20 lakh tonnes from the existing 8 lakh tonnes.

Paswan said the government has decided to talk to other pulse-growing countries like Canada for long-term import on a government-to-government basis.

Government has so far agreed to import 2 lakh tonnes of pulses each from Mozambique and Myanmar.

The central government has been forced to take urgent steps on the pulse front as despite efforts to increase availability through buffer stocks and imports, the prices of pulses including ‘chana dal’ have been going up.

In Delhi and parts of north India, the retail price, on average, is around Rs 190-Rs 200 per kg.

Faced with demand-supply issues with pulses and oilseeds and to bring down dependence on imports, the government on June 1 sought to exhort farmers to target higher productivity of these commodities and hiked the MSP of kharif (summer) pulses and oilseeds.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) at its meeting presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 1 decided to give a “bonus, over and above the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP)” of Rs 425 per quintal for kharif pulses — for arhar (tur), urad and moong dals and for oilseeds.

–IANS

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