Traders conniving to foil govt's efforts to bring down pulses prices: report

Record government procurements of tur (arhar) has failed to bolster prices of the commodity as wholesale prices continue to rule below the minimum support price of Rs5,050 per quintal in many markets across the key growing states of Maharashtra and Karnataka.

Reports say traders, with an eye on profits, have been actively engaged in price manipulations in order to foil government's incentive scheme of support prices and create a scarcity by discouraging farmers from pulses cultivation.

The government is reported to have procured more than eight lakh tonnes of tur dal - about a fifth of this year's estimated all-time high output of 4.23 million tonnes - so far this year. Procurement has been extended till 22 April as per current schedule.

Announcing an extension of the pulses procurement period at Baijipura in Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it would benefit farmers whose crops are still being harvested.

However, growers, who are still holding on to huge stocks, want the government to keep open the procurement window till the end of the harvesting season in May.

To speed up procurement, NAFED, the main procurement agency, will directly procure from farmers across the country by verifying farmers' documents and buying the crop without any APMC intermediary. State farmers' co-operative bodies will facilitate,'' reports quoted NAFED MD Sanjeev Kumar Chadda as saying.

While the government hiked procurement prices to incentivise pulses production and to arrest rising consumer prices over the last two years by boosting supplies, retail prices of pulses have been ruling high for the whole of the last financial year.

In fact, the high market prices of pulses acted as a bigger incentive for farmers than the government's support prices and this explains the fall in retail prices of the commodity.

The Centre is creating a buffer stock of two million tonnes of pulses to stabilise consumer prices. Responding to price signals, farmers had brought a record area under the pulses crop in 2016-17, resulting in an estimated record total output of 22.14 million tonnes.

The all-time high purchases of tur by government agencies should have lent some stability to prices. But that has not happened in the case of pulses this year.

The BusinessLine report quoting farmers' leader and member of Parliament from Maharashtra, Raju Shetti, as saying that traders have been playing on the prices of tur in the market. In some places, it has been found that traders are buying the produce below the MSP and selling it to NAFED at the MSP.