Pulses Production & Strategies for Achieving Self-sufficiency

Published: 2021-07-05 23:50:05
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Pulses Production Environment and Technologies
Several studies have indicated that the production of pulses in India has moved away from irrigated area, and as irrigation becomes available, there is a switch away from pulses towards fine cereals. Pulses are mostly grown as rain-fed crops or with limited irrigation. But due to the availability of improved high yielding varieties, farmers are also cultivating it as an irrigated crop. Moreover, pulses are poor responsive to irrigation as compared to wheat, maize or rice. On the other hand, when faced with uncertainty, producers base their crop decisions on both expected (average) income and income variance, though expected income can only be increased by taking on more risk (through increase in income variance). Farmers with smallholding and poor assets, being risk averse, are willing to accept lower expected income to reduce income variance. This is also one of the important reasons for largely widespread smallholders in northern and eastern India to shy away from pulses production. This raises serious concerns for regaining or raising the acreage under pulses in these regions
During the green revolution period (1964–1972) in India, the focus was to achieve food self-sufficiency through modernising and intensifying agriculture to raise yields of major cereals, that is, rice and wheat, through the use of improved seeds, multi-cropping methods, modern fertilisers and pesticides, and so on. Production of pulses in India increased only by about 47 percent to about 18.5 million tonnes in the triennium ending (TE) 2013–2014 from about 12.5 million tonnes in TE 1960–1961. Interestingly, over the last 40 years, there has been significant shift in the production of pulses in India. Area under pulses in northern states such as Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Assam has drastically decreased, though yield has consistently improved. The shift in pulses cultivation to the dry lands of central and southern regions of the country makes 82 percent of pulses cultivation still rain-fed. Among pulses, irrigated area of chickpea was 35 percent, while that of pigeon pea was only 4 percent in TE 2013–2014. Concentrated production of pulses is one of the major challenges in the sector. Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh account for 80 percent of chickpea production; while Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar together account for 80 percent of lentil production; and four states, namely, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, together account for over 70 percent of pigeon pea production in India. Consecutive drought-like situations in 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 resulted in about 20 percent reduction in total pulses production, as compared to that in 2013/2014. However, farmers have shown resilience by allocating higher area to pulses in 2015/2016 after a blip during the previous year. While there was serious decline in production of pigeon pea and chickpea, the production of moong and urad has not declined. Production of pulses in the 2015–2016 crop year was estimated to be around 20 percent less than that in 2013–2014 which further declined to only 16.35 m because of drought in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Rajasthan, the three big states that lead in cultivation of pulses.
Strategies for Achieving Self-sufficiency
Low genetic yield potential, high frequency of crop failure and yield instability due to biotic and abiotic stresses, and lack of institutional support (seed delivery system, guaranteed procurement, support price in congruence with yield variability, risk mitigation, infrastructure for value addition near production) are major challenges in the pulses sector. Although the government has launched several schemes and programmes for promoting pulses production, besides continuously increasing the procurement prices of pulses, these initiatives have not been sufficient to trigger required interest among growers. Distress sales of produce immediately after the harvest at prices lower than MSP are quite common, particularly among smallholder growers who do not have easy access to regulated markets (due to geographical location or transportation problems). Dal mills and processing facilities should be encouraged within the vicinity of production areas, which will promote off-farm employment. Therefore, achieving self-sufficiency in pulses for India is now a compulsion and not a choice, keeping in view its rising demand and spiralling of domestic as well as international prices of pulses in case of crop failure in the country. For this, policy strategies need to be devised for short, medium and long terms, engaging different stakeholders.
Short-term Strategies
Strengthening seed delivery system: Strategic framework to improve seed replacement rate in pulses would play an important role in improving the productivity of pulses. Even though seed production in India has increased in recent years, there is a shortage of quality pulses seeds in the country as private companies are little interested in the production of seeds of pulse crops. ICRISAT and other NARS institutions should increase the quality seed production of different pulse crops by mobilising and skilling farmers. Availability of quality seeds of already-developed improved varieties would increase the pulses production by at least 15–20 percent.
Pigeon pea hybrids have been developed that offer huge potential for enhancing yield. Such commercial pigeon pea hybrids such as ICPH2671 and ICPH2740 are already available in the market. During the year 2016–2017, under the Ministry of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare and ICRISAT collaboration, pigeon pea hybrids were introduced in nine districts (100 ha each covering three districts each in three states of India); they are expected to provide 30 per cent to 40 per cent higher yield. Concerted efforts are needed by both government agencies and research organisations for the production of hybrid pigeon pea seeds and promotion of its cultivation in a phased manner across states growing pulses.
Seed plans should be developed for each state, and nucleus/breeder seed of these varieties should be produced. In addition to public seed corporations, seed societies and private companies should be involved in seed production. Since seed storage for the next season is difficult in humid areas, good storage facilities similar to cold storage facilities available for potatoes in India may be explored.
Ensuring remunerative prices: Even the latest move to raise the MSPs of all the crops by a hefty margin and offering a bonus on top may fall flat, unless assured arrangements can be put in place to ensure that the farmers actually get these prices.
The MSP for pulses should be fixed considering not only the cost of its cultivation and parity with the competing crops, but also considering the yield variability in pulses and externalities it brings to the system in terms of nitrogen saving and subsidy saved on fertiliser and irrigation.
Effective procurement: The procurement of pulses after harvest needs to be strengthened immediately. Most of the pulse growers are currently unable to reach to regulated markets to sell their produce; instead, village traders are their main buyers. Therefore, to ensure the remunerative prices for these growers, it is very important to bring the procurement centres at the doorstep of the growers, particularly during harvest season.
Standardisation of prices and procurement by using mobile vans or regulating the village traders to make public all the information related to the transactions may reduce the ambiguities and exploitation of the smallholders. In the medium term, it can be facilitated by forming farmer producer organisation (FPO) and linking it with National Agricultural Market though e-platforms.
Skilling of pulse growers: India has very strong network of 600+ Krishi Vigyan Kendra’s (KVKs) spread across all the districts, besides other extension agencies. Skilling pulse growers on modern production practices—from sowing to harvesting—by these agencies can be very useful in reducing production losses.
Through different information and communication tools, crop production and protection technologies, improved varieties, risk mitigation (crop insurance) techniques and so on can be brought to the farmers’ doorstep.
The KVKs in potential pulses-growing districts may select few progressive farmers from each taluka/mandal, who in turn can act as master trainers for other pulse growers.
Efficient crop insurance mechanism: Even after more than three decades of implementation of crop insurance schemes in India, only 20 percent of farmers subscribe crop insurance. Although there is no information available about the pulse growers, it is essential to bring maximum number of pulse growers under insurance cover. This would give sufficient confidence to these farmers to combat the situation of crop failure. In January 2016, the new crop insurance scheme was launched by the Prime Minister of India; it aims to provide a more efficient insurance support to the farmers.
Under this, the premium rate will be 2 percent of the actual sum assured amount for kharif season crops and 1.5 per cent for the Rabi crops. However, implementation of the scheme is a major challenge as technology for estimation of crop losses at individual farm levels is not in practice. Without that, even genuine farmers are unable to get compensation for crop losses.
Medium-term Strategies

Expansion of area under pulses: Fallow lands or reclaimed waste lands can be identified and targeted in each state to bring it under pulse crops. Bringing additional area under pulses in rice fallows of eastern India is another potential area. Focus on both kharif (pigeon pea) and Rabi (chickpea) pulses targeting low productive and high potential region would offer huge potential in jacking up the production of these crops. Several studies have shown that there is large tract of about 6–8 million hectares, which are rice fallow. Even if 10 per cent of this area is targeted every year, within 5 years, we may have an additional 1 million hectares of land under pulses.
Farmers’ producer organisation (FPO) on pulses: This can be a game changer in the pulses sector. Through this, the pulses value chain can be easily shortened; it can also add a lot of value in the hand of pulse growers. Identifying the pulses-growing clusters and bringing on a single platform to integrate with the backward and forward linkages will help the farmers in reducing the cost of production substantially. This will also help in capturing additional value by undertaking processing of pulse grains and delivering the product directly to the urban consumers through organised retailers. The shortening of value chain will help the consumers in accessing the produce at reasonable price, even if the support price of pulses is increased substantially. The by-products of processed pulses are also nutritious feed for livestock, which can also be additional benefits for the farmers, if the processing mills are set up near these farmers.
Customisation and development of farm equipment: Collaborative approach to develop small size multi-crop harvesting farm machines and other farm equipment for plant protection can be of great help for the producers in reducing labour cost. New age app-based custom hiring services for farm equipment can be quite useful particularly for smallholders in doing the basic farm operations timely and economically.
Private tractor company, like Mahindra and Mahindra, has started on pilot basis ‘on-demand farm equipment’ rental start-up, Trringo in Karnataka state, through which farmers can book tractors by the hour via a phone call. Such innovation in farm equipment services has a lot of potential in revolutionising the pulses production.
Setting up of storage and warehousing in rural areas: Developing the multipurpose storage and warehousing structures in the rural areas is essentially required to realise better prices by the farmers by timing the market for selling of the produce.
This should also be seamlessly integrated with the financing provisions on collateral basis, so that the farmers who wish to sell the produce, when the price is right, can meet the financial obligations.
Moreover, if FPOs are established, then setting up of such ecosystem becomes far easier to bring logistics, finance and insurance near to the producers.
Foresight for international trade: The government should also develop a predictive tool to determine the demand and supply of pulses in forthcoming seasons to plan in advance to import or export of pulses in international market.
The current practice of approaching the international market after sufficient information of domestic deficit provides ample opportunity to the exporter to raise the price of pulses.
Opposite to it, having long-term contract for importing pulses also harms the domestic market in case of good harvest.

Long-term Strategies:

Developing short duration and pest- and disease-resistant cultivars: Infestation of pests and diseases such as pod borer, wilt and so on and variation in rainfall and temperature bring huge risks to pulses cultivation. There are large tracts of pulses in India, where the crop variability is very high due to these biotic and abiotic stresses.
Development of suitable cultivars specific to production regions will be very important to break the yield barrier, as has happened in southern region, particularly in case of chick pea. Several research institutes under NARS and ICRISAT are working on this line.
Moreover, liberal research funding towards R&D on pulses needs to be allocated, as compared to other cereal crops.
Integrating pulses into public distribution system: Keeping in view the widespread under- and malnutrition among women and children in India, to achieve the target of zero hunger and good health and well-being prescribed in sustainable development goals (SDG), it is necessary to provide pulses to all the poor households at affordable price.
Although this would further increase the demand of pulses, it can be managed if sufficient steps for enhancing the domestic production are already taken.
Therefore, compulsory inclusion of pulses in the existing schemes such as mid-day meal scheme or public distribution system (PDS) shall be ensured, so that the minimum pulses consumption by poor households are maintained even during the scarcity in pulses production.

The record pulses production in the recent period has been due to the positive impact ofGovernment interventions like increasing government thrust in technological advancement, rapid and intensive extension services, and institutional support through different intervening programs like NFSM Pulses and A3P.The decomposition analysis of sources of growth has revealed that prices of different pulses, as one of the sources of growth, had a declining share, however, the rate of decline was found decreasing in the recent period. This might be due to the ineffective procurement of pulses by the government agencies. The MSP of pulses, announced by the Government of India is not percolating to the farmer’s level so as to influence his decisions.

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