Disposal remains a challenge as rates have fallen below purchase price due to bumper harvest
The Centre’s ambitious target of building a two million tonnes buffer stock of pulses is almost complete with the inventories reaching around 1.99 million tonnes. But disposal of pulses has been rather weak with the government managing to dispose just 0.13 million tonnes of pulses.
Officials said with procurement almost complete in Maharashtra for this season, the total stocks have reached around 1.99 million tonnes.
Farmers in many mandis across Maharashtra are still bringing in their produce, particularly of crops that were sown late, but state agencies have cut down on purchases except from genuine growers amid concerns of traders offloading their inventories at government procurement centres.
Of the 1.99 million tonnes of pulses, almost 85 per cent has been purchased directly from the farmers, while the remaining around 0.37 million tonnes has been imported. Maximum domestic purchasing has been done in Maharashtra totaling over 400,000 tonnes.
However, with disposal of the procured pulses still weak, the government needs to speed up the process or else, it might have to curtail its purchases from the next season, even if there is fall in prices. To speed up the process of disposal, the Centre is planning to lower the price of pulses that are sold in the open markets.
It could also auction the pulses stock among big traders and processors to enable them to fill up their pipeline, which till this year was rather dry due to successive drop in domestic production.
Officials say the government is also mulling to distribute the pulses in army canteens, and hostels and destitute homes at cheap rates. The idea is being worked out with the ministry of finance.
However, disposing off the pulses could be a difficult task as open market prices of pulses have dropped way below the Minimum Support Price (MSP) and most of procurement has been done at MSP.
India is expected to produce a record over 22 million tonnes of pulses this year as per government estimates, which has kept prices under pressure.
Though, traders said the actual crop size might be less which is why prices of chana and tur have started firming up in the last few days after lying low for months.