With pulses prices topping 200/kg in many parts of India, it is an obvious topic for a blog. Pulses are a category of produce which have intrigued me for a long time. India is the largest producer and consumer of pulses. India is also the largest importer of pulses. While we have achieved “food security” in terms of cereals, we are increasingly dependent on pulses imports. Imports currently account for about a fifth of our pulses consumption.
Given all this, I thought it might be useful to take a look at pulses strictly by the numbers.
India has produced 17-19 million tonnes of pulses in the last 3-4 years including all varieties of gram, tur (arhar), urad, etc. To put this in perspective, we produce about a 100 million tonnes of rice (about 5% of which we normally export). Another interesting thing to note is that while production of almost all foodgrains (rice, wheat, millets, pulses) declined last year, tur daal and gram declined more significantly.
Every year we import about 20% of total pulses we consume. We hardly export anything – whatever we do export is primarily intended for Indians living in other countries. In the case of tur daal, we import about 15% of consumption. India consumes 76% of the global supply of tur daal, followed far behind remotely by Myanmar at 14% and (mostly eastern) Africa at 9%. This implies that India probably drives the international prices for tur.
Two other points of interest:
- In response to uproar over daal prices, the government recently announced the creation of 40,000 tonne buffer stock. For a country which requires 60,000 tonnes per day, 40,000 seems quite inadequate as a buffer to manage prices and/or supply.
- Another interesting question to ponder is whether 20-22 million tonnes of pulses are enough for the country. The chart below depicts the long-term trend which shows a longer term decline, with a slight recovery in recent years.
More on yields and productivity of pulses in a future blog…
UPDATE March 24, 2016: Related article from Washington Post about how India’s demand for pulses is luring farmers in Canada, US to grow pulses instead of wheat http://goo.gl/1XPVIx
- Pulse production: http://eands.dacnet.nic.in/Advance_Estimate/4th_Adv2014-15Eng.pdf
- Import/export last two years: http://agricoop.nic.in/imagedefault/trade/Pulses.pdf
- Import/export older: http://www.iipr.res.in/pdf/13_1_24072015.pdf
- Per-capita availability: http://indiabudget.nic.in/es2014-15/estat1.pdf
- Global consumption of tur (pigeonpea): http://oar.icrisat.org/191/1/98_2010_BO49_CP_and_PP.pdf