Govt to release new pulse variety for commercial cultivation, hopes to boost output

The government said on Monday that it will release a variety of the early maturing split red gram (Arhar grain) for commercial cultivation in January next year, thereby helping the country to attain self-sufficiency in pulse production in the coming three decades.

Pulses production in India is lower than its demand of 23-24 million tonnes (MT). Output had fallen in the past two years due to the droughts, leading prices to hit the roof while compelling the government to take several measures to check inflation.

"We will put this new arhar variety (Pusa 16) for commercial use soon. Once we put (it) for commercial use, certainly it will have a great impact," Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told reporters after visiting the experimental plot of new grain variety at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) complex in New Delhi.

Hoping that cultivation of the new grain variety will be benificial for the country, Jaitley further said that the low production of pulses in the past couple of years was due to a concomitant increase in protein intake, thereby increasing the demand for the protein-rich grains.    

"The reason (for the low production of pulses) being (a special concern is) that it  is the main protein in our diet. We are not only the largest producer but also the biggest consumer and importer. So, there is shortage here," he said.

Addressing the National Unity Day organised by IARI to mark birth anniversary of Sardar Patel, he said, "It has been the endaveour of our government in the last two years to financially incentivise pulses cultivation in a manner that production increases and is evident this year."

Recalling Chief Economic Advisor, Arvind Subramanian's  suggestion on incentivising pulses cultivation through higher minimum support price (MSP) and bonus, Jaitley said, "We see the result of this and we have seen increase in production. It is evident this year as well."

On Pusa 16, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said, "This new variety will be released for commercial cultivation in January and will be available for sowing in the Kharif season in 2017. This will help make the country self-sufficienct in next three years."

The new variety gets matured in 4 months instead of taking 6-9 months in case of existing pulses variety. It is a semi-dwarf variety suitable for combined harvesting. Its yield levels are in the range of 15-20 quintals per hectare, which is same as the existing varieties.

Country's pulses output is estimated to increase to 20 MT in the July-June crop year during 2016-17 on account of good monsoon after two drought years. But the production is still lower than domestic demand, which stands at 23-24 MT.

Pulses production fell to 16.47 MT in 2015-16 crop year from 17.15 MT in the previous year.

Recalling Sardar Patel's contribution to the country on the ocassion of his 141st birth annisversary, Jaitley said that many people took the "iron man" to be a farmer as he was involved in a peasant movement in Gujarat. But the leader, in fact, was a practising lawyer.

Patel contributed in a big way during the freedom struggle following India's independence. He was instrumental in the consolidating 550 princely states along with other centrally governed provinces.

Accession of each state had unique challenges and he tried all methods including intiating a mass revolt against rulers, recalled the minster while refering to the problems that faced tha nation while trying to convince states like Junagarh, Hyderabad and Bhopal to accede.

"Sardar was not given the responsibility of Jammu and Kashmir merged with India. Sardar's capability in respect of other leaders can be defined by this example," he said.

"India owes its present geography to the Sardar Patel," he said, adding that all was done in 2.5 years after Independence before his death.

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