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: https://www.ifpri.org/publication/pulses-nutrition-india-changing-patterns-farm-fork

Pulses Video

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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. www.ifpri.org.

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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). www.a4nh.cgiar.org

 

 

Technologies for Maize, Wheat, Rice and Pulses in Marginal Districts of Bihar and Odisha

Farmer in the field at Nalanda District, Bihar. Source: (Flickr) Divya Pandey, IFPRI
Farmer in the field at Nalanda District, Bihar. Source: (Flickr) Divya Pandey, IFPRI

Despite rich in natural resources such as water, fertile soil, mineral reserves and sun,  Bihar and Odisha have not been able to capitalize upon their vast resources due lack of infrastructure (like roads, power and markets), concentration of the poor population with high density in most parts, weak institutions (such as credit, insurance, education and extension) and weak governance.

A recent chapter on Technologies for Maize, Wheat, Rice and Pulses in Marginal Districts of Bihar and Odisha summarizes the current state of agricultural productivity and the potential of different technologies in two of the most economically backward states in Bihar and Odisha, India for their principal crops, rice, wheat, maize and pulses. Focusing on marginal districts in the two states, the chapter assesses the suitability of different technologies to uplift the areas (districts) out of their current low level equilibrium (in terms of production performance) and thereby raise the standards of living.

The authors identify the marginal (backward) districts for these crops based on current yield and its performance over time. Subsequently, the choice of technologies for marginal areas for each case is analyzed ex ante. In this approach, the potential is assessed under conditions in which a given technology might not be widely adopted currently but has a comparatively high potential to deliver upon adoption.

The short listing of technologies for these crops has been done based on a clearing house approach in which, in consultation with different stakeholders, the potent technologies for districts have been chosen.

The identified technologies for

Rice: Varietal substitution towards (climatic) stress-tolerant, high-yielding varieties; Mechanized Direct Seeded Rice (DSR) technology; mechanization of agriculture promoted by custom hiring centers - specific promotion of the self-propelled paddy trans-planter machine; and use of integrated nutrient management, involving use of both organic and inorganic fertilizers.

Maize: Hybrid seed (particularly high yielding single cross hybrid seed).

Wheat: Surface seeding technique for rice-wheat systems; Zero tillage wheat with Resource Conserving Technologies (RCTs); and Laser land leveling (LLL).

Pulses: Stress-tolerant high-yielding varieties; inter-cropping of pulses with other crops; and technologies such as line sowing/seed drilling/zero tilling.

Following this, through a structured survey of the households, the reasons behind slow or poor adoption of available technological innovations were examined. The profile of the identified technologies in terms of their uptake over time is looked at, besides assessing the role of complementary inputs that affect the feasibility for the respective areas, as well as the prospects for adopters of technology to multiply. The real opportunities and constraints for technology adoption are gauged directly from the farmers, including their aspirations about crop choices and the technologies that exist to grow them. It was found that maize and pulses are the crops that farmers currently aspire to get into.

It was found that in both states, there is generally a significant lack of awareness of agricultural technology, more so in marginal districts of Odisha. Some modern technologies, like hybrid rice in Bihar, have become quite well known to the farmers, while others, like Systems of Rice Intensification, in spite of having existed for quite some time, have not yet broken the information barriers.

Authors highlight that farmers and farmers belonging to the lowest caste fare badly, both in awareness as well as adoption of technologies. Translation from awareness to adoption has been quite difficult for most technologies.

In general, the technologies related to varietal adoption have been comparatively successful in this regard. In many others, as they get more complex and there is a greater need for complementary inputs, adoption of certain technologies, even in the presence of awareness, has been difficult.

The chapter highlights that policies for technology promotion in the marginal districts have to take into account the current state, as well the aspirations, of the farmers. These aspirations relate both to the crops/activities that farmers want to engage in as well as different technologies that they want to adopt but cannot because of constraints.

Given the evidence of the disconnect between awareness and execution, a holistic approach taking into account the whole process of adoption from information to support in adoption will be needed. The state of the farmers dealing with illiteracy, small land sizes and social barriers mandate a tailored approach in technology choice for the lagging districts in Bihar and Odisha.

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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Agricultural Interventions and Nutritional Status

Cross-posted from the FSP India website written by Bas Paris

Photo credit:Flickr, Sowmya's Photography
Photo credit:Flickr, Sowmya's Photography

A paper in Food Policy provides a review of various studies on the impacts of agricultural interventions on the nutritional status in South Asia. Past review exercises and studies have analysed the available evidences to understand the ways in which agriculture can be leveraged to enhance nutritional status, however, very few of them have employed a systematic approach encompassing a significant number of studies. This paper aims to fill this gap through conducting a systematic review assessing the existing evidence in 25 studies for combating food insecurity and malnutrition through agricultural interventions.

The paper analysed studies on the impact of interventions in agriculture and allied sectors (horticulture, livestock, fisheries and forestry) in South Asia (and India) on the nutritional outcomes for adults and children, published since the year 2000. The nutritional outcomes were captured through intermediate outcome indicators such as dietary diversity, calorie intake and nutrient intake, and outcome indicators such as anthropometric factors and DALYs (Disability Adjusted Life Years). The studies selected were not homogenous in terms of a common outcome indicator and the studies used different metrics for examining the linkage. Some studies analysed nutritional outcomes by examining the stunting and wasting of children and adolescents, whereas others analysed the Body Mass Index for determining adult malnutrition or levels of micronutrients such as vitamin A and haemoglobin. Some studies used intermediate outcome indicators, such as changes in consumption patterns, dietary diversity, and intakes of certain foods. Most of the included empirical studies analysed data from secondary datasets and had large sample sizes. Others were primary baseline surveys, with smaller sample sizes.

The paper categorizes the findings of the studies according to six pathways developed by UNICEF, and slightly modified by the paper, through which agriculture can influence nutritional outcomes. These six pathways are: sources of food, source of income of households involved in agriculture, agricultural policy and prices, women in agriculture and their socio-economic status, maternal employment in agriculture, and maternal nutrition and health status.

Regarding the sources of food the study highlights that 22 of the 25 reviewed studies examined the contribution of agriculture as a source of food for nutrition. The studies indicate strong evidence that the dietary intake of agricultural households largely depends on food supplies from their own farm, this is because subsistence farming is common across South Asia. The evidence, however, is not conclusive for the impact of supply of livestock on food consumption. A negative and significant association was also reported in three studies between improvements in agricultural productivity and under-nutrition. Particularly, the interventions for increasing the productivity and production of specific nutritious food crops such as vegetables and pulses, widely grown and consumed in India, showed positive implications for increased intake and child nutrition. However, a number of studies, two of which focused on India, estimated a weak relationship between calorie consumption and nutritional outcomes.

8 out of 25 studies investigated the impact of agricultural incomes on nutrition. In this regard the paper highlights that it is unclear whether agricultural growth leads to improvements in nutrition. Specifically, Heady illustrates that high agricultural growth rates in some states of India, such as Gujarat, Rajasthan and Bihar, were not accompanied by a decrease in under-nutrition. However, a number of studies find that nutritional security was reported to be significantly influenced by per capita agricultural income, one study also reported that increased household wealth also significantly positively affected the diet diversity of children in India.

Only 5 studies analysed the role of agricultural policies aimed at reducing relative prices or increasing the affordability of food on nutritional status. Based on the representative sample for India, it was demonstrated that policy interventions for affecting food prices played an important role in diet diversification and nutritional outcomes. The policy of improving the affordability of staples by the public distribution system provided food and nutritional security. However, the relative price of staples has a strong and significant association with diet diversity, but not with calorie availability.

8 studies covered the importance of women empowerment in agriculture and its contribution to household food and nutritional security. The nutritional status of the mothers, measured using the BMI, had statistically significant positive effects on height and weight for age scores of their children aged less than three years. Women empowerment influenced the quality of feeding practices for infants and young children, but was weakly associated with child nutrition status.

In conclusion the paper highlights that agricultural interventions (pathways 1-3) have the potential to influence nutritional outcomes in India and South Asia. However, the available evidence linking the agricultural interventions and their impact on the nutritional status of women and children is small (pathways 4-6). Overall, the paper stresses that these findings show that linkages between agriculture and nutrition are complex and require multi-sectoral and multi-dimensional approaches to tackle malnutrition problems. The findings clearly indicate the importance of the home production of nutrient-rich food crops for improving the nutritional outcomes. This suggests that bio-fortification of staples and homestead gardens can influence the intake of a micronutrient-rich diet and consequently nutritional outcomes. This also suggests that the diversification of agriculture towards fruits and vegetables can potentially promote dietary diversity and improve nutritional outcomes.

The full paper can be accessed here

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.

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