Area under pulses continues to remain low in the current kharif season, raising fears about trade-restrictive measures like imposition of stock holding limits to ward off rise in prices.
A rise in prices of pulses had forced the government to put stock limits on July 2, a step not in conformity with the free-trade concept embraced by it as it diluted the Essential Commodities Act in June 2020. Last week, it eased the restrictions a bit due to traders’ protest.
According to agriculture ministry data, pulses acreage was down by 10 per cent from last year, same time. Unless the acreages in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh reach last year’s level, the country’s kharif pulses production may be badly hit this year, trade sources said. The stalling of monsoon for three weeks indeed has affected sowing of pulses, and the recovery after the revival of rains, seems patchy.
Pulses have a weight of 0.64% in the wholesale price index (WPI) and 2.95% in the consumer price index (CPI). WPI inflation in pulses eased a tad to 11.49% in June from 12.09% in the previous month. Retail inflation in ‘pulses and products’ stood at 10.01% last month, up from 9.39% in May and remained much higher than the headline CPI inflation of 6.26%.
Pulses acreages in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, which have a combined share of 44% of the ‘normal’ kharif area of lentils, were 30% and 23% respectively, lower than the year-ago period. The other two major producing states – Maharashtra and Karnataka –where kharif pulses area was higher, have now got affected by floods.
As a small drop in production could lead to a jump in pulses prices, the government has been constantly monitoring sowing progress to ensure its reaches at least previous year’s level, sources said. Pulses acreage was at 8.73 million hectares as of July 23 against 9.72 million hectare year-ago. The Centre has set a target to achieve 9.82 million tonnes (MT) output from this kharif season. Area under pulses was at 13.18 million hectare while production was 8.5 million tonne during kharif 2020-21.