To boost domestic supplies of lentils (masoor) and ensure that its retail prices do not spiral out of control, India will enter into agreements with Russia and Kazakhstan for imports of the key pulses variety under long-term contracts. The memorandums of understanding (MoUs) would facilitate imports of lentils by private traders.
Similar arrangements are also being planned with Mozambique, Myanmar and Malawi for import of other varieties of pulses, particularly tur (arhar). After talks with Russia’s and Kazakhstan, India’s agriculture ministry is working out plant quarantine modalities before signing these MoUs.
Domestic consumption of pulses, especially lentils, in Russia and Kazakhstan are negligible. Annual commitment of exports of lentils would encourage farmers to grow the variety of pulses, which has one of the largest shares in India’s pulses imports basket.
According to commerce ministry data, India imported 1.11 million tonnes (mt) of masoor out of total pulses imports of 2.26 mt in 2020-21. In the current fiscal, around 6.5 lakh tonne of lentils have been imported so far.
Trade sources said that domestic production of lentils has not kept pace with rising demand and the government has been resorting to imports, mostly from Canada and Australia, to augment domestic supplies.
As per the second advance estimates of foodgrains production released by the ministry of agriculture last week, India’s lentil production is estimated at a record 1.58 mt in the 2021-22 crop year (July-June).
India signed an MoU with Mozambique for import of 2 lakh tonnes of tur or arhar annually for five years, when the retail prices of tur skyrocketed to Rs 200 a kg in 2016. This MoU was extended for another five years in September 2021.
In 2021, India entered into MoUs with Malawi and Myanmar for the import of 50,000 tonne and 1,00,000 tonne of tur per annum, respectively, till 2025. India meets 10-12% of its domestic consumption through imports. In anticipation of domestic shortfall in the output in May 2021, India had put import of tur, urad and moong varieties of pulses under ‘open’ from ‘restricted’ category earlier till March 2022.