How India Became Relatively Self-Sufficient in Pulses Compared to Edible Oils
June 5, 2023

Why in News?

  • After registering growth for four consecutive years, India’s pulses imports in terms of the rupee declined by around 5 per cent during the 2022-23 fiscal.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • Background (Context of the Article)
  • About Pulses (Characteristics, Types, Pulses in India, Facts & Figures, etc.)
  • Import/Export of Pulses in India

Background (Context):

  • There are two agricultural commodities in which India is significantly import-dependent: Edible oil and Pulses.
  • Between 2013-14 and 2022-23 (April-March), the value of India’s vegetable oil imports has soared from approx. Rs 44,000 crore to approx. Rs 167,200 crore.
    • Much of this has been in just the last two fiscal years.
  • Out of the 24-25 million tonnes (mt) cooking oil that the country consumes annually, only 9-10 mt is from domestically produced grain. The balance 14-15 mt is imported.
  • In case of pulses, the trend has been reversed.

About Pulses:

  • Pulses are the edible seeds of plants in the legume family. Pulses grow in pods and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors.
  • The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recognizes 11 types of pulses
    • dry beans, dry broad beans, dry peas, chickpeas, cow peas, pigeon peas, lentils, Bambara beans, vetches, lupins and pulses nes (not elsewhere specified – minor pulses that don’t fall into one of the other categories).

Pulses in India:

  • Pulses are the major sources of protein in the diet.
  • Of all categories of people, pulses form an integral part of the Indian diet, providing much-needed protein to the carbohydrate-rich diet.
  • Pulses are 20 to 25 percent protein by weight which is double the protein content of wheat and three times that of rice.
  • Varieties –
    • Major pulses are grown chickpeas (gram), pigeon pea (tur or arhar), moong beans, urad (black matpe), masur (lentil), peas and various kinds of beans.
  • Areas of Cultivation –
    • The main regions with high productivity are Punjab, Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal delta region, coastal Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, coastal and eastern Karnataka and some parts of Maharashtra.
  • Facts & Figures –
    • India is the largest producer of pulses in the world.
    • India exported 410,375.89 mt of pulses to the world for the worth of approx. Rs. 2,800 Crores during the year 2021-22.
  • Major Export Destinations (2021-22) –
    • UAE, China, US, Nepal, Canada and Iran.

Recent Trend w.r.t. Import/Export of Pulses in India:

  • The value of imports of pulses in the last 9 years has only seen a marginal rise.
  • From approx. Rs 11,000 crore to approx. Rs 15,800 crore.
  • In quantity terms, India’s imports of pulses more than doubled from 3.18 mt in 2013-14 to 6.61 mt in 2016-17.
  • From those peaks, they have come down to 2.52 mt in 2022-23.
  • Reasons –
    • The reduction in pulses imports have come essentially on the back of higher domestic production.
    • According to the Agriculture Ministry, India’s pulses output has increased from 19.26 mt in 2013-14 to 27.50 mt in 2022-23.
    • Even taking 23 mt production and 2.5 mt imports translates into an atmanirbharta or self-sufficiency ratio of over 90% in pulses, as against hardly 40% for edible oils.
    • Imports of two items have recorded dramatic drops: Yellow/white peas (matar) and chickpea (chana).
      • The boost to chana production came from two key government measures, incentivizing Indian farmers to expand area under the pulses crop grown during the rabi (winter-spring) season.
      • The MSP of chana has been raised from Rs 3,100 to Rs 5,335 per quintal between 2013-14 and 2022-23.
    • Areas Where India is Still Lacking –
      • Chana’s success has, however, not been replicated for other pulses, particularly arhar/tur or pigeon pea.
      • The same goes for urad (black gram), a predominantly kharif (post-monsoon sown) crop like arhar.

Conclusion –

  • Looking ahead, a subnormal monsoon can potentially lead to inflation in pulses.
  • However, the government has at least two buffers against this –
    • Ample buffer stocks of chana (chickpea).
    • The second is imports - there is currently no duty on imports of masoor, arhar or urad.