The supply of pulses is likely to improve in the next one week as the government has taken a series of steps to smoothen processes across entire value chain. So far, dall mills have been complaining of a squeeze due to the closure of mandis, labour shortage and unavailability of transport facilities, following the 21-day lockdown.
Dal mills are currently operating at less than 40 per cent of their installed capacities due to the shortage of raw materials, as supply of whole-grain pulses deteriorated due to the closure of agricultural mandis across the country. The sudden announcement of the lockdown has brought transportation of all essential and non-essential commodities to a halt. While intermittent transportation continues with permission from the local authorities, mathadis, truckers and others involved in the supply value chain remained apprehensive, resulting in massive disruptions in pulse supplies.
Sensing the need for immediate intervention, the government allowed mandis to open with some riders. Some mandis in Madhya Pradesh have started operating, albeit with a handful of traders. Those in Maharashtra, Rajasthan and other agro-centric states have started functioning gradually, improving the supply situation.
“While it will take a few weeks for the situation to come back to normal, supply of pulses is likely to ease faster as the government has taken a series of steps to smoothen processes across the value chain,” said Bimal Kothari, managing director, Pancham International, a Mumbai-based importer and processor.
A meeting via video conferencing held on Monday by the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry was attended by various stakeholders of the food supply value chain. The meeting deliberated on various issued faced currently by all strata of the food supply value chain, including dal mills.
“The biggest problem for us is supply of raw material — whole grains for processing. Owing to mandi closure, supply was hampered due to the sudden lockdown announcement. But the whole industry is with the government. We will provide all possible cooperation with the government to fight the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic,” said Kothari.
The government’s commodity procurement agency Nafed has tied up with dal mills for supplying them whole grains (raw material) for processing and getting processed dal for the government’s planned distribution through public distribution system (PDS).
Both the Centre and state governments have decided to supply 1 kg of processed dal per beneficiary to millions of consumers over the next three months which requires several tonnes for announced distribution.
Nafed officials could not be reached for their comment. But, dal processing sources said that Nafed has tied up with several dal mills spread across the country for local distribution of pulses. Sources said that Nafed is sitting on nearly 2 million tonnes of pulses which were procured during the current and previous harvesting seasons.
“Apart from that the government has decided to waive off demurrage and detention charges for cargo held at various ports for clearance since the 21-day lockdown was announced. This is a major relief of dal mills. Being most of private truck operators are closed today, lifting of quantity from ports would not be possible,” said Sri Prakash Goenka, managing director, S P Goenka & Sons, a pulses importer and trader.
In the meantime, pulse prices have risen marginally in some pockets which Kothari believes would come back to the pre-lockdown level soon.
Traders estimate around 1 million tonnes of pulses held up at various ports in India due to clearance. Customs department has been directed to speed up clearances. Governement has allowed customs to check email or xerox copy of bills from Indian importers and match them through cross checking with the officials in the country of origin. The department of customs has started clearing such cargoes.