Covid-19: Supply of pulses to ease soon as Nafed ties up with dal mills

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The supply of pulses is likely to ease over the next one week, with the government taking steps to smoothen the process across the entire value chain.

Nafed, the Centre’s commodity procurement agency, has tied up with dal mills to supply whole grain (raw material) for processing, and to get processed dal for the government’s planned distribution through public distribution system (PDS), according to people in the know. Both the Centre and state governments have decided to supply 1kg per beneficiary of processed dal to millions of consumers over the next three months.

Nafed executives could not be contacted. However, dal processing sources said Nafed has tied up with several dal mills across the country. They added that Nafed was sitting on nearly 2 million tonnes of pulses, which were procured during the current and previous harvesting seasons.

Dal mills had complained of squeeze on account of closure of mandis, labour shortage, and unavailability of transport facilities. They are operating with less than 40 per cent of their installed capacity, due to shortage of raw material. This is because the supply of whole-grain pulses was hit by the closure of agricultural mandis.

The lockdown has brought transportation of all essential and non-essential commodities to a grinding halt. Even as intermittent transportation of essential commodities continues — with requirement permission from the local authorities — mathadis, truckers, and others involved in the supply value chain remained apprehensive, resulting in mass disruption.

 

 
Seeing the need for immediate intervention, the government allowed mandis to operate, with some riders. Some mandis in Madhya Pradesh have started operating, but with less traders. With mandis across Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and other agri-centric states gradually opening, the supply situation has steadily improved.

“While it will take a few weeks for normalcy to return, supply of pulses is likely to ease in a week,” said Bimal Kothari, managing director of Pancham International, a city-based pulses importer and processor.

A meeting, via video conferencing, was conducted on Monday by the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, which saw participation from various stakeholders in the agriculture and horticulture sectors. They deliberated various issues being faced by all strata of the food supply value chains, including dal mills.

“The biggest problem for us is the supply of raw material, that is, whole grains for processing. Owing to closure of mandis, supply was hampered. However, the entire industry is with the government. We will provide all possible cooperation to fight the coronavirus pandemic,” said Kothari.

“Besides, the government has decided to waive off demurrage and detention charges for cargo held at various ports for clearance since the lockdown was announced. Given that most private truck operators are closed, lifting the same from ports would not have been possible,” said Sri Prakash Goenka, managing director of S P Goenka & Sons, a pulses importer and trader.

Meanwhile, prices have increased marginally in some pockets, which Kothari believes would revert to the pre-lockdown level soon.

Traders estimate 1 million tonnes of pulses held up at various ports in India. The Customs department has been directed to speed up clearances. The government has allowed Customs to check email or photocopies of bills from Indian importers, and match them through cross-checking with officials in the country of origin.


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