Pulses occupy a unique place in India’s nutritional food security as they are a major source of proteins. India is the largest producer, consumer and importer of pulses. However, there is a gap between potential and actual yield of pulses in India. The slow growth in pulses production is due to low growth in yield. Lack of awareness on crop management and technological constraints affect the pulse production.
- Pulses in India are mostly grown in rain-fed areas with unstable and uncertain rainfall This increases the risk of crop failure.
- Poor access to storage and milling facilities cause further risk to farmers. Also, poor market linkages cause constraints in meeting market demand.
- The crisis is majorly because of the decrease in farm area. Farmers opt for high-yielding crops with higher MSP, such as paddy and wheat.
- The procurement prices for pulses are low. This becomes a disincentive for farmers to grow pulses.
- Increase in pulse prices varies with the monsoon situation in India, as the prices rise and fall according to arrivals. Volatility in prices discourage farmers to take up pulses cultivation.
- India imports huge quantities of pulses from global markets, which could be produced domestically as well. It comes with a huge import bill, a skewed trade balance and affects the fiscal health of the economy.
- There are issues at each stage of the value chain for pulses, from seed supply, production, marketing, processing and final consumption of pulses.
- Only about a sixth of the total cultivated land under pulses has irrigation facilities and the Kharif pulse crop is mostly rainfed.
- The lack of a supporting mechanism for the procurement and marketing of pulses is a major hurdle in production of pulses.
- Low yield of Indian pulses and their vulnerability to pests is a major hindrance in the production of pulses. Being rain-fed, pulses often experience drought at critical growth stages.
- There are other issues as well, like lack of crop Insurance and credit facilities and poor backward and forward linkages
- There is a need to provide farmers with MSP that makes pulses production attractive like wheat and rice.
- Developing short duration and pest-resistant crops. Seed multiplication also needs attention.
- Area expansion: Additional area can be brought under pulses by adopting cropping systems like cereal-based cropping system, intercropping with short-duration pulses, etc.
- There exists a risk of growing pulses. Production of pulses by large farmers who possess more than five acres of land would be prudent.
- There can be active participation of the government through a designated central or State nodal agency, similar to the FCI or NAFED for procurement of pulses at the State level. Thus, assured procurement operations can be strengthened in focus districts.
- The recent announcement by NITI Aayog to create a buffer stock for pulses is a welcome step. Apart from creating a buffer, if pulses are included in PDS, it would improve the food and nutrition security of India. Therefore, a need-based buffer stock with accountability for proper management is needed to incur no wastage.
- Better system for easy availability of pulses in the open market throughout the year is needed. Efficient and rigorous enforcement of Essential commodities Act is required. Need-based distribution through PDS would be beneficial.
- Pulse export should be opened up. Currently, imports are free but exports are prohibited.
- To stabilize prices in the long run, we need to increase domestic production by eliminating the risks farmers experience while growing pulses.
The pulses sector needs a long-term policy that includes production, processing, consumption and trade. It needs adequate planning, research and investment. Growers need more remunerative prices and assured marketing outlets. Government can serve the interest of both cultivators and consumers. Its policy should be aimed at preventing prices from fluctuating widely. In the long run, the government needs to invest in irrigation, R&D and extension services to revamp the pulses sector.