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Insights into Editorial: Bring pulses under Public Distribution System

nutrition

 

Brief Background:

Two back-to-back deficient monsoon years (2014-15 & 2015-16) resulted in sharp fall in production of pulses in the country 16.32 million tonnes (mt) in crop-year 2015-16, the lowest in the decade.

In October 2015, tur or arhar dal retail prices rose to a record Rs 200/kg because of a huge demand-supply gap. All the other pulses, including chana, moong and urad saw a spike in prices.

The government increased the Minimum Support Prices (MSP) for pulses and stepped-up imports to control prices.

India signed an MoU with Mozambique for importing pulses over the next five years.

The government also created a 2 mt of buffer stock of pulses, under the Price Stabilization Scheme.

 

Nutrition problems in India:

  1. Micronutrient Deficiency: It is a term used to refer to diseases caused by a dietary deficiency of vitamins or minerals.
  2. The Global Hunger Index, 2019, reported that India suffers from a “serious” hunger problem is ranked 102 out of 117 countries.
  3. It also held that just a tenth of children between 6 to 23 months is fed a minimum acceptable diet.
  4. India’s Nutrition Policy of 1993 called for the adoption of a multi-sectoral approach and the implementation of a wide range of measures to achieve the goal of optimum nutrition for all.
  5. The National Horticulture Mission can be one of the ways to address micronutrient deficiency effectively.
  6. In 2018-19, the Government of India launched a National Millet Mission which included renaming millets as “Nutri-cereals”.
  7. Also, 2018-19 was designated as the year of Millets, to promote nutritious cereals in a campaign mode across the country.
  8. As millets have the potential to address micronutrient deficiencies, the momentum given to these cereals needs to be sustained.
  9. In pursuance of this, many welfare schemes have been launched to address malnutrition.

 

Problem of disposal of stocks of Pulses:

  1. The disposal of the large volumes of procured stocks of pulses under the Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS) by NAFED faces a significant challenge, particularly in depressed market conditions.
  2. Unlike oilseeds, pulses are prone to infestation during prolonged storage; thus, timely disposal of stocks assumes significance.
  3. The average price recovery in the disposal of PSS stocks under OMSS by NAFED has been even less than MSP.
  4. It is established that the market price continues to prevail at a much lower level than MSP.
  5. Traders and processors, who earlier used to buy pulses directly from the farmers, now wait for the NAFED’s OMSS.
  6. Stocks of pulses and oilseeds procured under PSS have continued to pose a problem of disposal for NAFED as stocks are sold at a discounted price, well below the MSP.
  7. As a result, it depresses market prices and discourages the private sector to procure directly from farmers”, the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) says in its ‘Price Policy for Rabi crops for the marketing season (2021-22)’ report.
  8. CACP observed that disposal of pulses procured under the PSS by NAFED has been a challenge as the federation incurs heavy losses in the open market, and sale of stocks depresses market prices.
  9. There is a need to formulate a policy for the sale of pulses stocks like wheat and rice.

 

Price Support Scheme (PSS) to ensure stability:

The purpose was to ensure stability in prices as well as provide MSP to farmers under the Price Support Scheme (PSS) specifically meant for pulses, oilseed and cotton growers.

Nutrition goes beyond just food, with economic, health, water sanitation, gender perspectives and social norms contributing to better nutrition.

This is why the proper implementation of other schemes can also contribute to better nutrition.

The convergence of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Jal Jeevan mission with schemes pertaining to nutrition, will bring holistic changes to India’s nutrition scenario.

With the largest number of undernourished people in the world, India needs to hasten to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 of ‘Zero Hunger’ by 2030.

 

Distribution of pulses under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY):

  1. Distribution of pulses under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) to about 5 crore households is a welcome step and will help in disposal of stocks without depressing market prices and also address the issue of malnutrition.
  2. More than 1.2 mt of pulses (1 kg of free pulse to each household) were distributed under PMGKAY to those covered under the National Food Security Act, in April-November, 2020.
  3. The aim was to ensure pulses to poor people at affordable rates and reduction of the sale of pulses under OMSS by NAFED, which often brings down the mandi prices of the freshly harvested crop, hurting pulse-farmers.
  4. More than a million tonne of pulses were allocated to states under this pilot scheme.
  5. The Economic Survey 2019-2020 notes that “Food is not just an end in itself but also an essential ingredient in the growth of human capital and therefore important for national wealth creation”. Therefore, India should give special attention to nutrition.

 

Conclusion:

The pulses production in the country has increased significantly in the last five years. We need to leverage this for supplying pulses through PDS to provide nutritional security to masses.

Currently, pulses from NAFED’s buffer stocks are being supplied to meet requirements of the school mid-day meal, ICDS nutritional support and the food stock earmarked for the army and central paramilitary forces.

However, the government must consider proposals to include pulses under the Public Distribution System for ensuring nutritional security to a large mass of people without impacting the market prices.