Thursday, June 17, 2010

Indinan Rice but Foreign Dal

Can you relish such a recipe?

But is recipe you are destined to have in future if the recommendations of the Group of Ministers(GOP) are accepted. We will have rice with dal from Canada, Mynamar ,Australia and Argentina.. Of course you can take relief in the knowledge that these pulses are grown on land there taken on lease by and perhaps also tilled and cultivated by Indians. And believe me what is going to happen is that the ‘apne gharme banlo mal’ dal will go to the rich houses and you and me would have to do with the imported stuff and while gulping it down with water try to remain contented with this realisation .Perhaps even the GOP was feeling rather guilty making this recommendation and so have added that ‘Don’t we get oil from foreign wells for our cars.?” Conveniently overlooking that we do this for we do not have enough oil wells.
But we certainly have enough land and to spare! Even under pulses and not too long ago we have been exporting pulses. I remember around 1983 when tur dal was available at Rs. 3/- a kg. It was fetching Rs. 12/- a kg. in the Gulf and was being exported to it on a large scale. It did lead to an increase in domestic prices to Rs. 7/- a kg. which was rather high but , as they say, we ‘stomached it.’ Besides the Gulf countries the country also exported pulses to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan UAE and Nepal. In the year 2005-06 India's total exports stood 447.440 thousand tones.. However, subsequently exports were banned,
One of the major supply constraints in pulses is its stagnant acreage over the years. Limited availability of cultivable land, stagnation in cropping intensity due to no growth in irrigation facilities and depleting water resources, have relegated pulses to poor returns/yields. Thus, pulses have gained the status of residual crop during kharif sowing season.

Sluggish growth in yield of pulses over the years is another major reason behind the sluggish growth/stagnation in their production. Even during the green revolution period, the yield growth in pulses remained subdued as the focus was on the major crops like wheat, rice and oilseeds.

Consequently pulses acreage is restricted to relatively poor and rainfed land, which further inhibits yield growth. Thus pulses sowing takes place as a last resort due to lack of ideal conditions for other major crops like grains and oilseeds. The pulses are not an important crop for human consumption in the other major developed and some of the developing economies and are mainly used for animal feed purpose(You may remember that Yellow Mello Jowar(The Red Jowar) imported from Argentina in the Rationing Days was actually animal fodder there). The exports to overseas markets are limited. Thus, if the production of pulses in the largest producing nation dips, it becomes difficult for the global markets to fill up the gap.

Further, in the scenario of depleting water resources in the country, pulses hold a great promise, as they require relatively less water than other major crops. With growing competition among various crops for the available land, the farmers are ignoring the pulses due to their poor returns on lower. Following is the production of pulses in India.

The Normal area under pulses is 224.60 lakh ha including Kharif, Rabi and Summer. The area under pulses during Kharif season of 2008-09 is estimated at 88.44 lakh hectare which is 81.42% of normal Kharif area. However, prolonged rainy season in Kharif has brightened prospects of increased production of Rabi pulses. The contribution of Kharif and Rabi/Summer seasons to the normal production of pulses is 37% and 63% respectively.

The production of pulses has increased from 83.50 lakh tonnes in 1966-67 to 151.12 lakh tonnes in 2007-08.

Among the cultivation promotion schemes of the government include-
1. Integrated Scheme of Oileeds, Pulses, Oil Palm and Maize (ISOPOM) in 14 major pulses growing State.

2. National Food Security Mission-Pulses launched in 2007-08 being implemented in 171 identified district of 14 major pulses growing States with objective to enhance production of pulses by 20.00 lakh tonnes by the 11th Five Year Plan.

3. Macro Management of Agriculture (MMA) Scheme which provides assistance to the States not covered under ISOPOM.

4. Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) under which States can undertake Pulses Development Programme.

It will be seen from the above that :Pulses production , even if it does not need highly fertile soil and lots of water has been neglected in the ‘Grow More Food Campaigns. From depending on every fourth roti we ate at the time on American wheat we have attained the status of exporters of wheat. Since many an Indian are vegetarians, pulses provide a necessary food ingredient of their diet they cannot be deprived of access to pulses at affordable rates . This factor should be taken into account and a determined efforts need to be launched to increase indigenous production of pulses and make up for the lost time since the Green Revolution As I said our abject dependence on foreign imports of foodgrains had at one time created the impression that India will be permanently begging at other’s door for ‘roti’ but with determined efforts we not only overcame it but because positive exporters. It should not be difficult for us to repeat the feat in pulses depending entirely on our land and resources. If we could spend the Thirty Thousand Crores that we are annually incurring for imports of pulses not only would this sum remain within our own borders but also used for the welfare of our own people.

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The GOP recommendations are defeatist in nature and should be fought back.

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