Book Release: Pulses for Nutrition in India: Changing Pattern from Farm to Fork

Book released by H.E. President Ram Nath Kovind & Shri E.S.L. Narsimhan Garu #Governor of AP & Telangana at 100th Annual Conference of Indian Economic Association

A good monsoon led to a rise in sowing and production of pulses in 2017, resulting in prices falling almost by half. Earlier, in 2015, rising prices causing declining consumption of pulses had been a cause of concern for both nutrition and food inflation in policy corridors. For a long time, India’s pulse production had been nearly stagnant, but volatility in prices and production in recent years make the continuing growth in pulses a big challenge for researchers, extension agencies, and policymakers.

Pulses are mainly produced by small farmers on marginal lands and face abiotic stresses like moisture, drought, and elevated temperature as well as biotic stresses like pests. This often leads to huge losses, reducing production by up to 20 per cent. The green revolution pushed pulses away from irrigated areas, with nearly 87 percent now being grown in rainfed areas. Despite their importance to diet and nutrition in India, yield improvement and technology development has been far more extensive in cereals vis-à-vis pulses.

In light of these challenges, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH),  is releasing a comprehensive book - Pulses for Nutrition in India: Changing Pattern from Farm to Fork authored by Devesh Roy, P K Joshi and Raj Chandra – by H.E. the President of India, Hon. Shri Ram Nath Kovind and Shri E.S.L. Narsimhan Garu, Governor of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in the inaugural session at 100th Annual Conference of the Indian Economic Association on December 27, 2017 at Acharya Nagarjuna University, Nagarjuna Nagar, Guntur, Andhra Pradesh.

The eight chapters in the book cover the journey of pulses across the value chain, from understanding final demand and supply, production, consumption, prices to trade, technology, processing, markets and government interventions.

Pulses, often considered as poor man’s meat as the ‘only’ significant source of protein, are particularly important for vegetarians. Yet, production of pulses has been insufficient to meet the rising demand, resulting in persistent increases in imports as well as prices. Price support is effective in cereals in some areas, but without procurement, in pulses their role is limited to benchmarking traders’ offer price. Dr. Devesh Roy, senior research fellow, A4NH and former research fellow, IFPRI, said, “Direct firm farm linkages with farmer organizations in pulses need to be promoted. The most crucial step needed in pulses is ensuring better transmission of consumer prices to producer prices.”

Dr. P K Joshi, Director South Asia, IFPRI, added, “The private sector has been missing from pulse research and development, and they need to be a partner to strengthen the seed sector for promoting high-yielding pulse varieties, and to develop better market linkages so that farmers get competitive prices. If pulse production increases by only area expansion, that will lead to a fall in prices but will not benefit farmers. Productivity increase through improved varieties and technologies is necessary to increase profitability of pulse production.”

The book explains the major policy take away for increasing pulses production and consumption. Few of the policy highlights are as follows: -

  1. Technology delivery systems need strengthening by linking formal and informal seed sectors and motivating seed companies to engage in pulse seed programs.
  2. Utilization of rice-fallow lands for pulses can be important. Up to 3-4 million hectares of rice-fallow lands are spread across Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, and Madhya Pradesh. During the winter (rabi) season, farmers can grow pulses using residual moisture – lentils in upland and chickpeas in medium and lowlands.
  3. Pulse processing is characterized by with low efficiency, irregular operation and inadequate capacity utilization. If processing were to become the engine of growth for pulses, there must be a structural shift toward larger mills with regular supply of good quality pulses.
  4. To develop infrastructure such as irrigation, transport, and communications in developing and deepening pulse markets.
  5. Explore incentives to the farmer producer organization (FPOs) that are growing pulses in large clusters.
  6. The participation of the private sector in research and seed value chain needs to be expanded.
  7. Incentives need to be put in place for private enterprises to engage in nutrition-sensitive food innovations; these may come in the form of research, tax, credits, challenge grants, or other strategies.

For more on the book, click here:

Pulses Video


The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) seeks sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty. IFPRI was established in 1975 to identify and analyze alternative national and international strategies and policies for meeting the food needs of the developing world, with particular emphasis on low-income countries and on the poorer groups in those countries.


The CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) helps realize the potential of agricultural development to deliver gender-equitable health and nutritional benefits to the poor. The program is led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).



Pulses: Supply Side Dynamics

Cross-posted from the FSP India website written by Rachel Kohn

Pulses: Source (flickr) Adam Jones
Pulses: Source (flickr) Adam Jones

India is both the largest producer and consumer of pulses in the world, with production and consumption preferences within the country varying by region. In terms of cultivation, for example, the country had 72 percent of the total global area of pigeon peas, 68 percent of the global area of chickpeas, and around 37 percent of the global area of lentils in 2012  (according to FAOSTAT), which accounted for 61, 68, and 20 percent (respectively) of global production. Meanwhile, since the Green Revolution in the 1960s, the reduction in the variability of paddy and wheat yields coupled with no comparable change for pulses led to diversion of land from pulses to those crops.  There is a persistent supply-demand gap when it comes to pulses. Resource-rich farmers tend to grow crops like paddy, wheat, cotton, and sunflower, while pulses continue to be produced mostly by small-scale and marginal farmers under rainfed conditions. A recent IFPRI Discussion Paper by Kalimuthu Inbasekar, Devesh Roy, and P. K. Joshi, “Supply-side dynamics of chickpeas and pigeon peas in India,” examines the evolution of pulses in India between 1950 and 2011 and provides insight into how policy can support the industry for pulses.

Mapping out the dynamics of chickpea and pigeon peas over time, across states (grouped into six zones based on geographical location), and within states at the district level (for a number of states), the authors were able to place these areas into specific groups and evaluate the movement in pulses in response to changes such as the Green Revolution, the economic reforms of 1991, and the trade spikes since 2000.  They also tested econometrically for factors affecting area allocated to pulses relative to competing crops using fixed-effects estimation.  They take advantage of state and year fixed effects as well as  including time-specific rainfall.  The empirical model focuses on conditions such as rain dependence, technological improvements like mechanization, and economic availability of labor.  The outcome variable measures intensity of pulses cultivation relative to the competing crops.

Previous studies found that as infrastructure developed and incomes rose, the country’s move to liberalize imports in pulses had a significant effect on pulses production and enforced the geographical decoupling of production and consumption of pulses in India.  At the same time, the yields in pulses were not increasing due to a lack of high-yielding and short-duration varieties and competition.  The authors note that the availability of infrastructure and inputs has hurt the pulses sector but mainly through the allocation of less land to pulses as increased mechanization and irrigation lead to the conversion of these lands to other remunerative crops.

The authors also found that pulses-producing districts were characterized by rainfed conditions, absence of irrigation, and absence of alternative profitable crops. “Pulses predominantly cultivated in the marginal and rainfed region under resource-starved conditions need an entirely different approach to increasing area, production, and productivity,” write the authors. As such, while it is important to address problems of rainfed areas, policymakers must ensure they will not lead to displacement of pulses from these regions as they are key to India’s pulses production.

Read More

Role of Import on Price of Pigeon Pea in India

Raising the Pulse Profit

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