Pulses traders have started nationwide protest to the government’s decision to levy stock limit and conduct raids and inspections on their warehouses.
Sporadic protests were seen earlier in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, India’s three largest pulses trading states contributing over two third of the country’s overall pulses consumption. But, hundreds of dal mill owners, retailers and stockists gathered in Vashi, near Mumbai, on Saturday and decided to intensify the agitations through all possible forums. They had earlier threatened to go on indefinite strike in case the government does not withdraw stock limit on pulses and release the quantity seized in recent raids.
“We have represented before the government of Maharashtra on several occasions. But, bureaucrats seem to not be bothered with our concerns. So, we have no choice but to go on strike as our business has become very difficult,” said Devendra Vora, a Vashi – based pulses stockiest and spokesperson of pulses traders there.
In fact, the government of Maharashtra on October 18 levied stock limit on pulses whereby a stockist and a retailer can hold a maximum 150-300 tonnes and 15-20 tonnes respectively of all pulses accumulatively. Similarly, the governments of Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have levied stock limit on pulses.
Interestingly, the government of Maharashtra started raids on pulses’ stockists three hours after the notification was issued and seized a large quantity of pulses which the government claims to have been owned by “hoarders” while the stockists term it as “need-based import.” Raids were conducted across the country in which around 80,000 tonnes of all types of pulses were seized.
“Normally, any change in law gives adequate time to stokists to get rid of their additional inventory to enable them to adhere to the revised guidelines which was not followed in this case. While everything was legal on October 18, the same became illegal the following day. This is what the government needs to know that all dealings were done according the prevailing law till October 18. So, allow them to clear it before enacting a new law,” said Bimal Kothari, Vice Chairman, India Pulses and Grains Association (IPGA).
In fact, traders have threatened to create a vacuum in three days. After selling off their entire quantity of holding they would abstain from fresh trading until the government releases the seized quantity and withdraw stock limit.
“There has been a crop (kharif) failure of urad this year due to drought in major producing states resulting into price rise. While chana and masoor crop remained ‘okay’, the price rise in tur and urad pulled up chana prices as well. Tur prices have been up globally due to lower output this year. With new Indian tur crop is set hit the market by the second – third week of December, its price would normalize automatically,” said Kothari.
While tur price hit Rs 200 a kg in retail markets, urad, chana and masoor prices also hit their record hit in October.
“Because of the government’s actions we will stop running mills at least for three months until the situation returns to normal. We will not procure fresh pulses for the current season,” said Motiram Wadhwani, president, MP Pulses Traders Association.
Meanwhile, the first advance estimate of the government shows kharif pulses’ output at 5.56 million tonnes, well down from the target of seven mt and the 5.63 mt of actual output in the previous kharif season. With a decline in output from local sources and continuous rise in demand, prices moved up sharply in recent months. The government was estimating a sharp increase in sowing this rabi season but after its actions on traders and stockists, farmers had worries over returns and there has been only a 11 per cent increase in acreage so far this season.
“This is the off-season going on for tur dal industry. But the problem will come when the new season crop starts hitting dal mills for processing in coming months. So, the government must address the problem,” said Yogesh Prasad Pandey, Proprietor, Narmada Dal Mill and Warehouse, Hoshangabad, Madhya Pradesh.
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