16/06/2016 2:51 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST

India Turns To Myanmar, Africa For Pulses; Tomato Crisis ‘Seasonal,' Says Paswan

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A colourful arrangement of green chillies, tomatoes, limes, onions and nuts on a stall in a street market in Chandi Chowk

The government has approved the import of pulses from Myanmar and Africa, as prices of pulses have gone up to ₹170 per kilo and that of tomatoes to ₹100 a kilo, according to media reports.

Prices of pulses, the main source of protein for millions of Indians, have increased substantially because of a supply problem. Tomato prices have soared to ₹100 a kilo in some places due to crop damage in south India. Potato prices have also been on the rise.

According to media reports, inflation of pulses has been over 30 percent in the last few months. Overall, the wholesale price inflation data showed vegetable prices rising sharply to 12.94 percent.

Following a meeting of senior ministers on Wednesday, Union Food and Public Distribution Minister Ram Vilas Paswan tweeted that India will facilitate a government-to-government import for pulses from Africa and Myanmar. India already imports about a quarter of its pulses.

The Indian government has already released 10,000 tonnes of pulses from its newly-created buffer stock to stabilise prices. The government's twin strategy comprises boosting supply through the buffer stock and through imports.

Ways to improve procurement, increase crop sowing area, take action against hoarders, and improve transparency in the functioning of private importers were discussed at the meeting. The ministers also discussed the progress made in imports of pulses, reviewed the buffer stocks position and the lifting of stocks by state governments for retail distribution at subsidised rates.

Those attending the meeting -- which included secretaries to the department of economic affairs and revenue, as well as the Chief Economic Advisor -- were also informed that Kendriya Bhandar, Safal and other government agencies were selling the staple tur and urad dal at ₹120 per kilo from their outlets.

As of Tuesday, tomato prices in most retail markets across the country had doubled to ₹80 per kilo in the previous 15 days due to sluggish supply owing to crop damage. Rains in south India and heat stress in the north have resulted in damaged crop, leading to higher prices.

Paswan said in the meeting that the price rise in tomato was "seasonal" and tomatoes could not be stored due to a short shelf-life unlike wheat and rice. He also said that his ministry is keeping a close watch on prices of pulses, sugar, wheat, tomato and other essential food items.

India imported 5.5 million tonnes of pulses last year. The country's pulses production is estimated at 17.06 million tonnes in 2015-16 crop year (July-June), while the demand is pegged at 23.5 million tonnes.

With PTI inputs

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