Pulses for Sustainable Agriculture & Health

Cross-posted from the FSP India website written by Jaspreet Aulakh
Global demand for pulses is rapidly increasing. As noted in a recent editorial, filling the demand-supply gap will be critical.  For the South Asia region, pulses are traditionally importantPulses food commodities and cheap sources of protein. The region is now experiencing shortages of pulses which is causing an increase in imports.  In an effort to increase consumption of pulses, a number of states have included them in the Public Distribution System and a recent IFPRI discussion paper evaluates the opportunities and constraints for including pulses in the PDS.   Pulses are also emerging as the ‘future food’ in developed and many African countries. The challenge is to increase pulses production efficiently not only to meet the domestic requirement in the region but also supply for new consumers in developed and African countries.

On January 5, 2016, IFPRI held a roundtable discussion on “Enhancing Opportunities for Increasing Production and Consumption of Pulses.” This event highlighted the importance of increasing consumer awareness of the nutritious benefits of pulses, as well as integrating government efforts and filling research gaps to encourage pulse production and consumption. A second dialogue was organized on May 31 and June 1, 2016 and featured representatives from eight different countries, 48 discussions, and 104 poster presentations.

The main themes of this latest workshop touched on major aspects of the pulse sector - Global and Indian Perspective on Pulses; Pulses Production, Consumption and Environmental Services; Pulse Consumption Behaviors; Price Behavior of Pulses; Drivers of Pulses Production; Pulses, Climate Change and Eco-system Services; International Trade in Pulses; Aggregation Models for Pulses; Leveraging Markets to Increase Pulse Production; and Evidence for Market Integration in Pulses; and Value Addition for Pulses through Food Convergent Innovation. An additional session on Farmer Producer Organization for Pulses was attended by farmers from Bihar and Maharastra.

The main theme that emerged from the inaugural session was that focus should be placed improving India’s national pulse sector through the use of technology and increased government support. There is scope for India to become the world’s largest pulse-producing country, but to make this happen, research must identify ways to fit pulses into the country’s current cropping pattern and yield gaps must be addressed so that pulse price volatility can be better managed.

Shenggen Fan, Director General of IFPRI, launched the Global Food Policy Report 2016 at this event. Pulses receive special mention in the report, as they fall under stress-tolerant, environmentally friendly, and nutrient-rich protein options. Pulses also have high payoff potential if improved technologies are used (this is particularly true in the Indian states of Bihar and Odisha) they have high payoff potential with improved technologies.

Dr. Parthasarathy Rao, a former ICRISAT scientist provided an overview of pulse production, consumption, and demand, citing the Global Perspective of Pulses. According to the presentation, pulses account for 5.8 percent of the world’s arable land. In India, they account for 18 percent. Six pulse varieties contribute 80 percent of pulse production globally – drybeans (32 percent), chickpeas (17 percent), drypeas (15 percent), cowpeas (9 percent), and lentils and pigeonpeas combined (6 percent). Pulse production shows a rising trend in Asia and Africa; together, these regions account for about 67 percent of global pulse production. Global demand for pulses for use as both food and feed is also increasing for food and feed; 75 percent of pulses are consumed as food in developing countries, while 35 percent are consumed as food in developed countries. Pulses contribute 13 percent of India’s overall protein intake. In terms of production, Asia has not yet reached self-sufficiency. Canada, Myanmar, the US, Australia, and China account for 75 percent of all global pulse exports, and India is largest pulse-importing country in the world.

Pulse imports to India are mainly from Myanamar, Canada, and Africa. Raj Chandra of IFPRI showed evidence that imported pulses do have a cooling effect on the domestic prices of Indian pulses.  A unitary shock in the imports at first leads to a sustained increase in prices up till 20 weeks, after which price stabilizes. Import needs to be operationalized quickly as it takes some time to have effect on prices. Canada has started branding and promoting pulses via programs focusing on the crops’ nutritional and health benefits. Lack of availability of seed was reason for low production in 2016 due to high world pulse prices.  We can reduce non-renewable input use such as nitrogen phosphate and less water with the help of pulses. It was also pointed out that different pulses have very low elasticity of substitution. There should have pulse brand value instead of generic branding. Nutritional security is important in the long run.

Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/southasia-ifpri/tag/ifpri-pulses-conference-2016

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/96625205@N02/albums/72157669653492066

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