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Govt will ensure masur price does not fall below MSP: Officials

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PUNE: The government will ensure that the market price of masur (rabi lentils) does not fall below the minimum support price (MSP) by undertaking procurement operations if needed, top officials said.

SK Singh, additional director general at National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (Nafed), which procures pulses when prices fall below MSP, said the government will procure lentils if the prices fall below MSP.

“Last year, we did not procure lentils as prices were high. This year, we are in advanced talks with the state governments. If farmers get MSP, it is a matter of a year or two before we become self-sufficient in lentils,” said Singh at a webinar organised by the Indian Pulses and Grains Association (IPGA) on Saturday.

According to IPGA, the country has a stock of about 450,000 tonnes of lentils, while the demand till February–when the new crop will come–is about 600,000 tonnes.

Apart from urad and tur–which were in short supply–masur is another pulse which often needs to be imported to bridge the demand-supply gap. The government had reduced the import duty on lentils to 10% in June, and then said the tariff will remain unchanged till December end.

However, traders are worried that the import duty may be increased from the new year and have sought clarity from the government on the matter.

The trade expects 33% import duty on lentils to be restored from January, though no such decision has been taken yet.

“The government has been changing import policies bi-monthly, making it tough for the trade to take decisions. No one has booked shipments for November, December, as there is possibility of import duty increasing from January,” said Rakesh Khemka, an importer of pulses.

Sowing of masur has picked up in the country and the crop will be ready for harvest by February. The government has set a target of producing 1.6 million tonnes of lentils in the 2020-21 rabi season against the domestic annual demand of 1.9-2 million tonnes.

“Thanks to good availability of moisture and good reservoir levels, the rate of sowing is double when compared to the previous year with an areas of 3.7 lakh hectares already sown,” said central agricultural commissioner SK Malhotra at the webinar.

Lentils are mostly eaten in the northern and north-eastern parts of the country. Thanks to the distribution of chana under Prime Minister’s Garib Kalyan Yojana, large sections of the poorer population have shifted from eating lentils to chana, thus helping bridge some gap in demand and supply of lentils.

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