The government has, for the first time, allowed import of lentils (masur) from Russia with a view to reducing dependence on Canada and Australia for the commodity.
The move has helped bring down the price of imported masur by 2.5% at the ports.
Masur prices in India are at a record high. On Tuesday, whole masur in wholesale trade was available at Rs 80/kg, while in retail, masur dal was available at Rs 100/kg.
The price of loose, whole masur in Madhya Pradesh, the country’s top producer, has increased by 55% since February to Rs 8,050/quintal.
In February, Canadian lentils at the Mundra port were trading at Rs 5,200/quintal. The same is now trading at Rs 7,500/quintal, a rise of 46%. Retail price of masur dal has touched Rs 100/kg.
“We had never thought that the price of lentils could surpass the price of tur (pigeon pea),” said Harsha Rai, owner, Mayur Global.
Canada is the world’s largest producer of lentils, followed by Australia and Russia. However, India has never imported lentils from Russia due to phytosanitory issues. According to sources, the government has allowed a one-time import of lentils from Russia for a period of six months, subject to it meeting the country’s phytosanitory requirements.
India has identified three pests in the pest risk analysis done for lentils imported from Russia. Of these, two are weeds and one is nematode–all of which are absent in India.
Vivek Agarwal, director of JLV Agro, said, “We expect that there are about two lakh tonnes of lentils available in Russia. The transit period is about 20 to 25 days.”
Due to dry weather in Canada, the size of the lentil crop is expected to be down by about 50%, which has led to about 55% rise in prices at the origin within two months.
Australia, the second largest producer of lentils, is dealing with the issue of cancellation of shipping agreements, which forced Indian importers to scout for more sellers.
However, the importers are likely to face many challenges while importing lentils from Russia. “Firstly, as we have never imported lentils from Russia. We are not aware about the quality of the crop. Secondly, the availability of empty containers from Russia to India is also not known, as we aren’t trading much with this origin, while the prices too are not cheaper as compared with Canada or Australia, where we know what standards we are buying,” said Rai of Mayur Global.
Pradip Jindal, president, Pulses and Beans Importers Association, said, “We had requested the government to open import from few more countries, apart from Canada and Australia, to check rising prices. We are also trying to import lentils from Kazakhstan.”