An Aspect of Problem in India’s Agriculture: Scarcity of Pulses


Pulses, besides being a source of protein (22-24%) for the human being are also important in livestock feed­ing. The most widely known grain pulses are gram and tur (pigeonpea). Kharif pulses (pigeonpea and others) account for 41 per cent of the area and 30 per cent of production, the rest being occupied by rabi pulses. Pulses have been neglected in research and development pro­grammes so far. Gram accounts for the bulk of area (35 per cent) and production (46 per cent) among all pulses. Pigeonpea is cultivated in all parts, the concentration being in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. The yields in the peninsular region are low, compared with that of north. In regard to other pulses, due attentions is required to be given to blackgram (urd), greengram (mung), horsegram (moth) and many others like; cowpea, frenchbean, lablab bean (dichos lablab) in order that they could be grown in different condi­tions of rainfall and soil in different parts. Rainfed techniques have to be given utmost importance in research and development activities.

Pulse Year 2016—As per the

IPTIC (International Pulses Trade and Industry Confederation), Dubai- organised on 21-24 April, 2012, FAO (Food & Agriculture Organisation) & UNO (United Nations Organisation)- with joint collaboration, ‘Pulse Year 2016’ has been declared. Since, India is the largest shareholder in pulse trade in the World, as well as pulse producer, consumer and importers.

Demand for pulses : Consump­tion : India is a leading producer, the foremost consumer and the largest importer of pulses. There has been a tendency of moving from cereal- dominated diets to increasing shares of proteins and vegetables. It is a fundamental characteristic of econo­mic development that both nutri­tional standards improve and diver­
sification is an essential part of this. So, it is very natural that more and more people are eating a greater variety of foods. The agricultural supply system has to be able to res­pond to this increasing demand, which it is not able to do. Food infla­tion driven by pulses, other protein sources and vegetables, has been a persistent theme in the Indian macro- economic policy debate.

The consumption is hovering at 22 million tonnes, which necessitates yearly pulse imports of around 3-5-4 million tonnes. Under ICAR-Indian Institute of Pulses Research (IIPR) Kalayanpur, Kanpur (UP) estimates demand of 25-39 million tonnes by 2024-25.

Estimates of production of pulses suggest that India needs an annual growth of 4-2 per cent to ensure pro­jected demand of 30 million tonnes by 2030.

One important aspect of demand is the availability of substitutes. Why don’t people just switch to other pulses ? There is some substitution going on between different pulses, but large parts of the country are predominantly tur consumers, while, in others, rising incomes create a long­term, superior-good shift towards tur. In a nutshell, long-term supply and demand is mismatched; short-term supply disruptions exacer-bate the problem.

Present Scenario of Pulse pro­duction and pulse availability in India—

  • Pulse production (million


  • Three top rank States in pulse production (mt-million tonnes) and % All India’s share (2013-

14)—1st rank : M.P.-5-1 million tonnes (26-4%); II rank- Maharashtra- 3-1 mt (16-2%) and Illrd rank Rajasthan-2-0 mt (12-8% share).

It indicates that the pulse avail­ability per capita per day is reducing each year w.e.f. 1950-51 to 2015-16, which should be 102 gm/day/capita, while it is only 35 g/capita/day presently.

The problem of shortage : The major problems related to :

  1. Productivity of pulses. Low genetic yield of Indian pulses and their vulnerability to pests and diseases is a major hindrance to adoption of pulses by farmers;
  2. Being rain-fed, pulses often experi­ence drought at critical growth stages. The risk of low producti­vity and income is too high for farmers to bear. The lack of drought and disease-resistant varieties of pulse seeds is alarm­ing. Tur is a long-cycle crop, once sown, locking in the farmer for the entire season. But, it also leaves the crop vulnerable to late- season deficiency in rainfall;
  3. Public investment in agricultural research to develop high-yield­ing, short-duration strains of pulses, oilseeds and other horti­cultural crops has been excep­tionally low;
  4. Unmatched inter-crop price parity Remuneration and gross retur: over cost of production is higher in cereals and cash crops ir comparison with pulses;
(? per quintal)

Crop Year 2014-15 2015-16

(Includes ? 200 bonus)

Arhar (Tur) 4350 4625
Moong 4600 4850
Urd 4350 4625


  • the government’s import policy for pulses are most often aimed at taming domestic prices to protect consumer interests, dis­regarding those of the producers. Minimum Support Price of Agriculture Products : Keeping in view the interest of farmers as also the need of self reliance, Government of India has been announcing Mini­mum Support Price (MSP) for 24 major crops including pulse crops, with the main objectives e., to pre­vent fall in prices in the situation of over production and to protect the interest of farmers by ensuring them a minimum price for their crops in the situation of a price fall in the market. Since, the cost of crop cultiva­tion is increasing by the increasing cost of fertilizers, labourers, scarcity of water resources etc. In this situa­tion, the MSP has to increase. The MSP of pulse crops for 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons (fVq.) were kept as :

Enhancing productivity and supply : Identifying land for growing pulses must go hand in hand with promoting yield-augmenting and resource-saving technologies along with providing farmers better access to remunerative markets. Diversifica­tion of the rice-wheat system in the Indo-Gangetic plain through popula­risation of short-duration varieties of pigeon pea, Kabuli chickpea, field pea and summer moong-bean will be key to sustainability.

The strategy to increase produc­tion begins with identifying addi­tional area that has potential for pulse crops. Three to four million hectares in rice fallow lands were identified largely in Eastern India, with the potential to yield around 2.5 million tonnes. About 5 lac ha area of upland rice, 4.5 lac ha area of millets and 3 lac ha area under barley, mustard and wheat, currently giving low yields, could be brought under kharif/rabi pulses. About 16.5 lac ha area vacated
by wheat, peas, potato, sugarcane, lentils can be used for raising 60-65 day summer moong bean crop in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Gujarat and West Bengal.

In the North region, Punjab may be a suitable choice to promote pulses. The reasons are many : the presence of strong infrastructure including mandis, connectivity and extension services. Depletion of soil and water resources owing to long-term rice- wheat crop rotation can be addressed by diversification. Substituting rice or wheat with pulses will help soil fertility. High productivity has been recorded in pulses in Punjab versus other States at 0-9 t/ha. Remuneration and gross return over cost of pro­duction is expected to incentivise the adoption of pulses over paddy and wheat. The MSP of pulses and wheat- paddy can be aligned while the State may offer bonuses for pulses. Drip irrigation will be easily affordable in Punjab and can be additionally sub­sidised for pulse-growing farmers. Large-scale and progressive farmers can be monitored and trained easily. To promote pulses with small far­mers, a pulses insurance scheme may be devised to cover losses due to un- seasonal rains or natural calamities.

Dal mills and processing facilities should be encouraged within the vicinity of production areas, which will promote off-farm employment. India has the potential to achieve much higher agricultural producti­vity. The active participation of the government can be substantiated through a designated Central or State nodal agency, similar to the FCI or NAFED, for assured procurement of pulses at the State level. Thus, at the very least, assured procurement operations can be strengthened in focus districts.

ITK (Indigenous/Inherited Tech­nical Knowledge) for ‘Pulse storage in grain bins’-In India, about 25-30% foodgrains is damaged each year, therefore, it needs to save from pests / diseases in grain storage. The agri­culture scientists have developed ITKs to save pulse seeds in storage

  1. ,
  2. Before seed-grain storage, pulse seeds must 8-10% moisture. If the seed moisture is more than this limit, the pulse seeds will demage.
  1. Before storage, the pulse-dal should be treated/coated with mustard oil.
  2. Keep 5-6 gm Heeng (Asafoetida) per quintal dal in grain bins.

Policy orientation : the way forward : There are three ways to increase the availability of pulses: increase the area sown; improve producti­vity and other enhancement measures like higher shelflife and imports. On the first, the reality is that there is no really any new land available to sow more pulses. More area could only come at the expense of some other crops. A long-term supply enhance-ment solution is imperative. There are three main components in this :

  1. While small quantities of imports

are feasible and will provide some relief, the fact is that, unlike chana, tur is not widely cultivated globally. Subir Gokarn has sug­gested that it would be wise to enter into long-term supply contracts with land-abundant countries—Australia,   some

African countries and so on— which would guarantee a year- round minimum volume. India has to start thinking globally about food security, just as it has been doing about energy;

  1. As far as domestic production is concerned, there has to be a concerted effort to break out of the flat yield trend. It is time to initiate a new mission focused on long-term improvements in pro­ductivity, which should address both efficiency in cultivation and, very importantly, ways to increase storability and shelflife. Dehydrated, preserved tur may be preferable to no tur at all; and
  2. Even as these components are being put into place, advance warning of impending supply disruptions would be useful in helping the government prepare for such outcomes and avoid the consequences of spiking prices. One way of doing this is a well­functioning futures market. There are outcomes of market structure and weak regulation, both of which are amenable to solutions. There really is nothing complicated about it.




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