Pulses are consumed as Dal, which is a cheap source of plant protein. These are consumed because of body building properties due to presence of various amino acids. These also have medicinal properties. By products of pulses like leaves, pod coats and bran are fed to animals in the form of dry fodder. Some pulse crops like Gram, Lobia, Urdbean & Moongbean are fed to animals as green fodder.
Moong plants are also used as green manure which improve soil health and adds nutrient into the soil.Pulses are major source of plant protein and carbohydrates. Other nutrients like Phosphorus, Minerals, Vitamin C, Riboflavin and essential Amino acids are also major constituent.
Clearly pulses are important for not just us humans, but also for the plants and the animals.
The demand and supply
India is the largest producer, largest consumer and the largest importer of pulses in the world but India has the lowest yield among the top producers. In the past 3 decades or more, the land under cultivation for pulses has more or less remained the same with the yield (in kg/hectare) only slightly improving.
The yield saw a marginal increase from 473 kg/hectare in 1980-81 to 781 kg/hectare in 2012-2013. The Low yield of pulses is attributed to climate change (it’s also convenient to attribute to climate change in this case), pests, diseases, but the primary reason is lack of innovation and lack of a stable support system starting from guaranteeing the minimum support price to providing crop insurance in case of crop damage.
Instead of putting efforts into making India self reliant, India has always been importing the pulses to make up for the gap in demand and supply. In the year 2015-2016, India is looking to import the pulses from countries like Canada, Russia, USA, France, Australia, France, Lithuania, Myanmar, Tanzania, Sudan, basically a whole lot of countries.
Below is a chart describing the countries where the pulses are imported from. India has recently signed a contract to import 100,000 tonnes of pulses from Mozambique in 2016-17, doubling to 2 lakh tonnes by 2020-21.
Domestic production of major pulses: From the data, it’s very much evident that we haven’t made much progress. On the contrary the year 2015-2016 saw the lowest domestic production when compared to the previous 5 years
Pulses continue to be grown by small and marginal farmers on marginal lands under rain-fed conditions. Even though substantial increases have been made in the MSP, due to weak procurement/price support mechanism, farmers’ response in terms of increase in acreage under pulses is lukewarm.
India’s pulse(s) is(are) at risk and the way we are treating are farmers, the risk is only going to increase forcing India to import it’s pulse.
So what’s next?
India still produces 17 million tonnes of pulses every year, so there are farmers actively cultivating keeping India’s pulse rate going. The solution lies with these farmers, all we need is make these farmers part of the problem solving efforts. They have the experience to deal with bad to worse weather conditions, they have the patience to experiment and innovate, they have the knowledge from crop rotation to crop sustenance. Our policies and politics are always after promoting the party name, their agenda instead of supporting the farmers – the day this change happens, Indian agriculture, which is the biggest employer will get back on track, making India not just self reliable country but also a healthy country.