Pulses in India: Changing Patterns from Farm to Fork

Pulses Consultation at New Delhi India
Pulses Consultation at New Delhi India

The per capita demand for pulses is declining in India. Yet they remain a cheap and an important source of protein. On the supply side, pulses’ production had hovered around 11 and 14 million tons during the last three decades. Stagnation in production has led to rise in the prices of pulses that further affected their consumption adversely. To overcome the rising prices of pulses because of demand supply gap, their imports increased substantially to the tune of 3-4 million tons during last five years.

To better understand the pulse sector in its entirety, a one-day workshop was organized by South Asia Regional Office of International Food Policy Research Institute on “Pulses for Nutrition in India: Changing Patterns from Farm-to-Fork”, on January 14, 2014 in New Delhi, India. The workshop presented studies that covered the pulse sector from farm to fork comprehensively. All the segments of the pulses’ sector including production, consumption, price formation, international trade, processing and value addition, and innovations comprising private as well as public sector in strengthening the entire pulse value chain were presented. These studies were designed to better understand the changing dynamics in the pulses sector and explore opportunities for meeting their availability through increased production, enhanced trade and improved technical and marketing efficiency.

Pulses Consultation at New Delhi, India
Pulses Consultation at New Delhi, India

Traditionally in India, with relatively more focus accorded to food grains, especially rice and wheat, the pulses were relegated to marginal environments. Consequently, over the years despite many focused programs, there were only slight changes in the production of pulses. However, recent initiatives through National Food Security Mission and higher minimum support prices led to leapfrog in production to 18 million tons. However, weak technology delivery mechanisms, and continuing low profitability of the sector have failed the arrest the shifting of pulses areas to more remunerative crops.

The inaugural address for the workshop was by Dr Y K Alagh, chancellor, Central University of Gujarat who had also been the leader of government pulse initiatives in the country. In his inaugural address Dr Alagh emphasized that there is an urgent need to blend domestic price policy with tariff policy such that domestic prices of pulses stabilize and that can thereby ensure attractive returns to pulse producers.  More specifically import duties on pulses needed to be calibrated to the demand and supply situation in a timely fashion.

In a session on the way forward for the pulses sector in India, Dr Ashok Gulati, chairman, Commission of Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) stressed on the need for procuring pulses under public distribution system to reduce market risk for farmers and ensure supply for their increased consumption. He cited the example of soybean as potentially the cheapest source of protein in the country and the role of pulses as a supplier of protein has to be looked in a comparative context. The scope for pulses or other sources of protein has to be looked in a situation where special interests in the dairy sector preclude the possibility of soya based products such as tofu being adopted by the large scale system of dairy cooperatives in India.

Dr John McDermott, director, CGIAR’s Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH), IFPRI stated that pulses play an important role in farming system, these improve soil fertility and can be potential source of higher income for farmers especially in dryland areas. He emphasized for creating a strong mechanism to focus on nutrition security through improved pulse value chains, and efficient processing sector. Dr Laurette Dube, founding chair and scientific director, McGill World Platform for Health and Economic Convergence, emphasized on the need for convergent innovation in pulses to increase production, income and nutritional security.

Dr P K Joshi, director, South Asia Regional Office, IFPRI concluded the workshop by adding the need for need-based technologies in pulses for favorable and marginal locations, traditional and non-traditional area, and production of commodities for import substitution and for the global markets. He also stressed on effective procurement policies of pulses, as have been initiated by Chhattisgarh and Haryana, along with effective medium and long-term trade policies to promote supply and consumption of pulses.

The workshop was attended by donors, researchers, private sector and media.  The workshop was based on a studies conducted by IFPRI-South Asia Office under the CGIAR’s Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health. Check out the presentations of the workshop

Fertilizers Purchase in India -from Subsidies to Direct Cash Transfers

Flickr: IITA
Flickr: IITA

This entry is cross-posted from Food Security Portal. If you’d like more information, please visit http://www.foodsecurityportal.org/

Fertilizer use in India has exploded since the government began a subsidization program in the 1970s. National fertilizer consumption rates increased by 50% during the 1990s. But research has shown that the effectiveness of these inputs has actually declined – on average, 8 kilograms of grain were produced per kilogram of fertilizer in the late 1990s, compared to 25 kg of grain per kg of fertilizer in the 1960s. Many farmers have reacted by simply applying even more fertilizer to their land; in addition to greatly increasing the cost of the government’s subsidy program, this overapplication of chemical fertilizers can cause long-term damage to the soil and surrounding water supply, further threatening agricultural productivity. And while some farmers are using far too much fertilizer, other smaller farmers continue to have little or no access to fertilizers at all, thereby underscoring deeper systematic problems with fertilizer subsidies and distribution within the country.

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Financing Agri-Value Chain in India

Wholesale Market, Patna, Bihar. Source- Flickr, Bart Minten/IFPRI
Wholesale Market, Patna, Bihar. Source- Flickr, Bart Minten/IFPRI

Dr. P K Joshi, Director- South Asia, IFPRI presented a paper on “Financing Agri-value Chain Development In India – Constraints and Opportunities” at the 27th National Conference on Agricultural Marketing organized by University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Agricultural Economics, Dharwad, Karnataka, India. The presentation gives a broader viewpoint on the ongoing IFPRI-Study on ‘Innovative Financing for Agriculture and Food Value Chain in India.

Child Growth in India vs. Africa

Source: Flickr (IFPRI South Asia)
Source: Flickr (IFPRI South Asia)

IFPRI will continue with its AMD (Applied Microeconomics and Development) Seminar Series on Thursday, October 17 at 12:00pm EST. Rohini Pande of the Harvard Kennedy School will present on the differences in height-for-age among children in India and children in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Pande will discuss results from the paper Why Are Indian Children Shorter than African Children? This paper examines data collected from demographic and health surveys in India and Sub-Saharan Africa and finds that while India is richer than the average African country and fares better in terms of infant mortality, height-for-age among children in India is in fact lower than among children in Africa. The paper posits that this result could be explained by cultural norms such as parental preferences regarding higher birth order, particularly for elder sons.

The AMD Seminar Series is designed to provide a forum for researchers to present high-quality applied microeconomics and development work. Seminars are held on the first Thursday of each month at the IFPRI home office in Washington DC. (It should be noted that the October 17 seminar deviates from this schedule.)

To RSVP for this or future seminars, please contact Alexandria Cannon (a.cannon@cgiar.org).

Bangladesh: Rising Prices of Onions

Vegetable Market, Patna, Bihar, India: Source: Bart Minten/IFPRI

Onion prices have reached all-time high, not only in India but also in Bangladesh, and is mostly pinching the pockets of the country’s low-income population. According to The New Age, onion prices jumped by Tk 15-20, per kg domestically supplied onions were selling at Tk 80-90 per kg, while imported onions were selling at Tk 90-95 per kg on the retail market in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Unfavourable weather conditions in India, in the major production zone, caused the recent rise in onion prices. In Bangladesh, anticipating a decline in imports, and to make extra profits, traders began stockpiling onions further limiting supply and rising prices.

A recent Bangladesh Policy Research and Strategy Support Program (PRSSP)-IFPRI report, Sudden Onion Price Surge in Bangladesh: A Situation Analysis for Policy gives insights on why onion prices are rising and analyses short, medium and long term policies for future actions.

In News
New Age:
Onion price shoots up to Tk 95

The Daily Star: Price rockets due to trading racket

Financial Express: IFPRI for reducing dependence on India

Related material: IFPRI Blog post on: Onion Prices Bring Tears to the Indian Government

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