India signs 5-year pulses import deals with Myanmar, Malawi

India has signed memoranda of understanding with Myanmar and Malawi to import tur dal and urad dal for the next five years, a move seen as bid to check prices of these pulses and avert any shortage.

The government on Thursday signed an MoU with Myanmar to import 250,000 tonnes of urad and 100,000 tonnes of tur every year from 2021-22 to 2025-26 through private trade, and another MoU with Malawi to import 50,000 tonnes of tur every year through private trade for the same period of time.

The assurance by India to import a fixed quantity every year is expected to promote cultivation of tur and urad in Myanmar where farmers had shifted away from these crops to grow moong for China as exports to India decreased.

India’s efforts to achieve self-sufficiency in pulses after a severe shortage in 2015 when retail prices had crossed Rs 200 per kg had resulted in dwindling imports in the past three years.

“As the progress of the monsoon rains is patchy this year, the government seems to be trying to avert any shortages in the near future,” said a trader, who did not want to be identified.

With the latest MoUs, India has committed to import a total of 350,000 tonnes of tur and 250,000 tonnes of urad this fiscal. On March 19, the government had allowed import of 200,000 tonnes of tur from Mozambique during 2021-22.

A five-year MoU with Mozambique for tur imports had expired last year.

As per the deal with Myanmar, the government will review the total quantity of imports in January every year and, if there is any shortfall in the annual quota, that quantity will be released for import from any other country.

“India is the largest buyer of tur in the international market,” said Bimal Kothari, vice president of Indian Pulses and Grains Association. “As such, these countries would like to get an assurance from India for their production. Myanmar used to produce about 300,000 tonnes of tur when India was a major buyer. This year, Myanmar’s tur production had dropped to just 75,000 tonnes,” he said.

The private trade has sought clarification from the government about whether the quantities they import will be part of the import quota allocated as part of the MoU or it will be over and above the imports that will take place under the MoU.

Commodity analyst Rahul Chuahan said, “Earlier Malawi used to export tur to India via Mozambique. Now it will be able to export to India independently.”

Prices of pulses like chana, tur, moong and urad in the country have been ruling around the benchmark MSP.

The government had last month moved tur, urad and moong imports out of the restricted list to open general license (OGL) category.

Even as the government is taking measures to boost supplies, some in the industry are worried about sluggish demand. “We will also need efforts to boost consumption,” said Nitin Kalantry, a pulses processor from Maharashtra.

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