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Timely announcement of MSP for pulses required prior to sowing season
Saturday, 01 July, 2017, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Our Bureau, Mumbai
The timely announcement of minimum support price (MSP) for pulses prior to the sowing season is of great importance. Announcement of the MSP for pulses, ideally in June-July, can have a significant impact on farmers’ choice of crops.

India faces a pulses deficit of about six million tonnes. Theper capita consumption is below 40gper day, the amount recommended by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

On one hand, Indian agriculture is seeing record crop production, while on the other, the farmers’ protests are increasing.

In several states, farmers fear that a bumper crop, combined with erratic monsoon, will bring down prices and affect livelihoods. Pricing and policy are central to these protests.

India produced over 106 million tonnes of rice and over 95 million tonnes of wheat in 2013-14. This is about 10 million tonnes higher than the demand for each of these crops.

In the same period, we produced just about 19 million tonnes of pulses, which reduced to 17.5 million tonnes in 2014-15, although there is an annual demand of about 24 million tonnes of pulses.

This deficitin pulses exists, because there is a much more efficient system for procurement and a lucrative MSP for rice and wheat.

India currently has a policy in place for five pulses only – tur, moong, urad, lentils and gram.

Further, there is a need to ensure that the MSP actually reaches the farmer and is not exploited by middlemen. State governments could explore special schemes for pulses in the respective states.

Recent analysis by the multi-country LANSA consortium project, led by the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), showed that as per the National Sample Survey’s 61st and 68th rounds, only Himachal Pradesh met the daily requirement of 40g of pulses.

States like Jharkhand, Rajasthan and West Bengaldid not even meet 50 per cent of the norms set for daily protein intake.

In a countrywhere 37 per cent of children under five are stunted and 34 per cent are underweight [according to the fourth National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4)], pulses are important to address malnutrition.

The study further recommended ensuring availability through the public distribution system and increasing the consumption of less popular, but more nutritious, pulses.

An example from the ongoing work by MSSRF in Tamil Nadu’s Pudukkottai district showed that the farmer-producer organisation (FPO) procured pulses at a ten per cent premium for farmers above the current local market price.

This ensured that farmers in that region cultivated pulses, since they were assured of procurement by their companies in an ethical manner with no hidden costs. Farmers benefited directly from this system that ensuredan appropriate price for their produce.

Since pulses need less than one-fifth the water rice requires, they are also water-smart. Getting farmers to grow pulses is important to increase income, reduce water for farming and improve the nutritional status.

In the current year, we may face a deficit monsoon. So announcing a remunerative MSP for pulses may be the way ahead.
 
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