Can India become self-sufficient in producing dal?

GS Paper III

News Excerpt:

The government has launched a portal to boost pulse production, targeting self-sufficiency by 2027 through farmer support and trade policies.

Launch of new portal:

  • The government launched a new portal where farmers growing pulses can register and sell their produce directly to central agencies at the minimum support price (MSP).
  • The promise of assured purchase through the portal addresses farmers' concerns about uncertain market conditions, encouraging increased cultivation.
  • Economic benefits through direct sales at MSP may incentivize farmers to prioritize pulse cultivation over other crops.  The move follows a spike in consumer prices which were 18% higher year-on-year in November 2023. 
  • Under the initiative, produce of farmers who get themselves registered even before production of toor dal will be procured by the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd (NAFED) and National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation of India (NCCF). 
  • A similar facility will be also unveiled in future for other pulses such as urad (black gram) and masoor (lentil).
  • The government's clear goal of becoming a net exporter of pulses by 2027 demonstrates a commitment to reducing dependency on imports.

Pulses as Climate Smart Crop:

  • Pulses are vital in the development of sustainable food systems and key players when it comes to food security and nutrition in India.
  • The Global Pulse Confederation (GPC) emphasizes their significance in developing sustainable food systems, addressing food security, and promoting nutrition. 
  • Pulses play a crucial role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and are adaptable to arid conditions, requiring less water for cultivation. 
  • As a superfood, pulses offer a nutritious and healthy dietary choice. Their ability to fix nitrogen in the soil enhances soil fertility, making them environmentally friendly.

Challenges in Making India self sufficient in pulses

Current Supply Gap and Import Dependency:

  • Production and Imports: In the past few years production of pulses was estimated at 27-28 million tonnes. Imports were 2.5 million tonnes in 2022-23. 
  • Shortfall Impact in some varieties: The shortfall is largely in varieties like arhar (pigeon pea), where lower production led to a surge in prices and imports. Other than pigeon peas, India also imports black gram and lentils. 
  • Government Intervention and Duty-Free Import: To increase domestic availability and cool retail prices, the government has allowed duty free import of pigeon peas, black gram and lentils till March 2025.
  • Balancing Act: While higher supply of imported pulses can help reduce local prices, it can also dissuade farmers from increasing the area under cultivation.
  • Projected Demand Surge: The Niti Aayog says demand for pulses is expected to increase to 33 million tonnes by 2029-30.
  • Global seed giants: The lack of interest from global seed giants in pulses indicates a potential hurdle, requiring India to invest more in public research for high-yielding varieties.

Yield Challenges & Farmer Preference for Other Crops:

  • MSP Influence on Crop Choice: Farmers often hesitate to grow pulses due to the preference for crops like rice and wheat, which government agencies procure at MSP for the food security scheme.
  • Economic Incentives and Profitability Concerns: Convincing farmers to shift from traditional crops to pulses may require addressing economic incentives and ensuring profitability.
  • Challenges with Specific Pulses: Some pulses, like arhar, are low-yield, long-duration crops, posing challenges to meeting the growing demand.

 Way forward:

  • Promotion of portal: The newly launched portal for direct procurement at minimum support prices should be widely promoted to encourage more farmers to cultivate pulses. 
  • Encourage farmers: Incentivizing pulse cultivation through subsidies on seeds, fertilizers, and other inputs can further motivate farmers. 
  • Better varieties and trade policy:Some pulses like arhar are low-yield, long-duration crops. So, the farmers will also need high-yielding, climate-resilient varieties and a favourable trade policy.
  • Investment in R&D: The government should invest in research and development to create high-yielding and climate-resilient pulse varieties. 
  • Farmer’s economic security: Ensuring a stable MSP and establishing direct procurement mechanisms can provide economic security to farmers. 


Supplementary information:

Global meet on pulses

  • India will host a global meet on pulses after 18 years in Delhi. The 2023 convention was held in Sydney.
  • Conference will feature discussions on global best practices of pulses production, processing and trade
  • About 800 representatives of governmnents, as well as commercial and non profit organisations involved in the production and processing of pulses will attend the Global Pulse Convention to be held .
  • Jointly organised by the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd. (NAFED) and the Global Pulse Confederation (GPC), the conference will see experts in the field sharing their views and experiences with various stakeholders and policymakers. 

Schemes for pulses production:

National Food Security Mission (NFSM)

  • The Department of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare is implementing the National Food Security Mission (NFSM)-Pulses with the objectives of increasing production through area expansion and productivity enhancement in all the districts of 28 States and 2 Union Territories viz. Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh of the Country. 
  • Under NFSM-Pulses, assistance is given through States/UTs to the farmers for interventions like cluster demonstrations on improved package of practices, demonstrations on cropping system, seed production and distribution of HYVs/hybrids, improved farm machineries/resource conservation machineries/tools ,etc.


  • To ensure remunerative prices to farmers, Government implements an umbrella scheme PM-AASHA comprising Price Support Scheme (PSS), Price Deficiency Payment Scheme (PDPS) and Private Procurement Stockist Scheme (PPSS) in order to ensure Minimum Support Price (MSP) to farmers for their produce of notified oilseeds, pulses and copra.
  • Under PSS scheme, procurement is undertaken directly from pre-registered farmers conforming to the prescribed Fair Average Quality (FAQ) norms by Central Nodal Agencies through the State level agencies at MSP announced by the Govt. as and when prices fall below the MSP during the harvesting period.

Recommendations of Arvind Subramanian on pulses

  • In his 2016 report on incentivizing pulses production, Chief Economic Advisor Dr. Arvind Subramanian emphasized the need to boost domestic production to meet the rising demand. 
  • The report outlined key recommendations, including increased procurement efforts for pulses like moong, tur, and urad at Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) and allocating additional funds for procurement agencies.
  • Efficient disposal policies, removal of stock limits and export bans, and revising MSPs for pulses were also proposed. Subramanian called for a review of the Essential Commodities Act to enhance market competitiveness.
  • Additionally, he suggested establishing a new institutional arrangement for pulses, owned by the government and private players, to facilitate trading operations for various crops.

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