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Production of Pulses in India

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Agriculture/ Cropping Pattern


Source: IE, BS   


Context: India is poised to become the world’s largest producer of lentils (masoor) in the 2023-24 crop year due to increased acreage.


Recent facts:

  1. India’s pulse imports have significantly decreased from about 6 million tonnes in 2016-17 to about 2 million tonnes in 2022-23. The decline is attributed to reduced imports of yellow peas and chickpeas over the past decade, primarily influenced by high import duties and procurement policies.
  2. The government’s incentives to boost pulse cultivation have led to a higher lentil crop area, reaching over 19 lakh hectares by January 2024.
  3. The government has increased the Minimum Support Price (MSP) to further support farmers
  4. The government recently stated its objective of achieving self-sufficiency in pulses by the end of 2027
  5. Despite the current increase in production, the past three decades have seen stagnation in acreage, production, and productivity of pulses across the country


Importance of pulse production for India:

  • Pulses are rich in proteins and found to be the main source of protein to vegetarian people of India so it is the second important constituent of the Indian diet after cereals.
  • Pulses being legumes fix atmospheric nitrogen into the soil. Being leguminous crops, all these crops except Arhar help in restoring soil fertility.
  • These are mostly grown in rotation with other crops
  • They add organic matter into the soil in the form of leaf mould.
  • They supply additional fodder for cattle. Some pulse crops like Gram, Lobia, Urad bean & Moong bean are fed to animals as green fodder.
  • They provide raw materials to various industries. Dal industry, Roasted grain industry, Papad industry, etc.


Fig: Shows the stagnation of Pulses in Area, Production, and Productivity


The major factors responsible for the stagnation in Pulses are: 

Policy factors:

  • Introduction of Green Revolution: A report “Pulses in India: Retrospect and Prospects” (2017) a report published by the Agriculture Ministry, says farmers in the Gangetic plains quit pulses for other crops around 1990 because of the improvement in irrigation facilities.  The breakthrough via HYVs in cereals has been accompanied by a loss of acreage under pulses to cereals, and consequently a sharp decline in the total production of pulses.
  • Skewed implementation of agriculture reforms: Due to a number of economic and political compulsions, the strategies for agricultural growth remained anxious with the aim of achieving rapid increases in food grain production by concentrating the resources and efforts on the relatively better-endowed areas and strata of cultivators.


Demand factor:

  • Cobweb phenomenon: Shrinking demand due to a surge in prices leads to farmers diverting to other crops in the next agriculture seasons (thereby reducing production further), which leads to a vicious cycle of high price, low demand, and low production.

Infrastructure factors:

  • Lack of Infrastructure: Inadequate Warehousing Facilities & Collateral Finance.
  • Uncertain monsoons and insufficient irrigation amenities


Other factors:

  • Pest attack: Pulses are highly prone to damage by insect pests, diseases, nematodes, and weeds.
    • Damage to pulses by nilgais and other stray animals is a big factor in Uttar Pradesh for farmers moving to other crops.
  • Low seed rate resulting in poor crop stands.
  • Imbalance of use of fertilizers: Unstable use of fertilizers is one of the important reasons for low productivity and depleting soil fertility. The average N: P: K ratio in the past two decades has been 7:3:1 against the recommended 4:2:1.
  • Inadequate MSP by the government for pulses (compared to cereals)


Government Initiatives:

  1. Providing Minimum Support Prices (MSP) to farmers through:
    1. National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED)
    2. Small Farmers Agri Consortium (SFAC)
  2. National Food Security Mission (NFSM)-Pulses.
  3. ICAR’s Role in Research and Variety Development.
  4. Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay SanraksHan Abhiyan (PM-AASHA) Scheme.


Measures that can be taken to improve pulse production: 

Short-term Strategies

  • Strengthening seed delivery system: Availability of quality seeds of already-developed improved varieties would increase the pulse production by at least 15–20 per cent.
    • In addition to public seed corporations, seed societies and private companies should be involved in seed production.
  • Ensuring remunerative prices: The MSP for pulses should be fixed considering not only the cost of its cultivation and parity with the competing crops but also considering the yield variability in pulses and externalities it brings to the system in terms of nitrogen saving and subsidy saved on fertilizer and irrigation.
  • Effective procurement: Bring the procurement centres to the doorstep of the growers, particularly during harvest season.
  • Skilling of pulse growers: India’s 600+ Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) can be used for skilling pulse growers on modern production practices—from sowing to harvesting.
  • Efficient crop insurance mechanism: Only 20 per cent of farmers subscribe to crop insurance. Providing efficient crop insurance would give sufficient confidence to these farmers to combat the situation of crop failure.


Medium-term Strategies 

  • Expansion of area under pulses: Fallow lands or reclaimed wastelands can be identified and targeted in each state to bring it under pulse crops.
  • Farmers’ producer organization (FPO) on pulses: It will integrate the backward and forward linkages and will help the farmers in reducing the cost of production substantially.
  • Customization and development of farm equipment: Developing small-size multi-crop harvesting farm machines and other farm equipment for plant protection
    • New age app-based custom hiring services for farm equipment can be quite useful, particularly for smallholders in doing the basic farm operations timely and economically.
    • Case study: Private Tractor Company, like Mahindra and Mahindra, has started on a pilot basis ‘on-demand farm equipment rental start-up, Trringo in Karnataka state, through which farmers can book tractors by the hour via a phone call.
  • Setting up of storage and warehousing in rural areas
  • Foresight for international trade: Develop a predictive tool to determine the demand and supply of pulses in forthcoming seasons to plan in advance to import or export pulses in the international market.


Long-term Strategies 

  • Developing short-duration and pest- and disease-resistant cultivars: Infestation of pests and diseases such as pod borer, wilt, and so on and variation in rainfall and temperature bring huge risks to pulses cultivation.
    • The development of suitable cultivars specific to production regions will be very important to break the yield barrier, as has happened in the southern region, particularly in the case of chickpeas.
  • Integrating pulses into the public distribution system: Compulsory inclusion of pulses in the existing schemes such as the mid-day meal scheme or public distribution system (PDS) shall be ensured so that the minimum pulses consumption by poor households is maintained even during the scarcity in pulses production.



Thus there is a need for a holistic approach to enhance the production and productivity of pulses crops.  Prominently good agronomic practices with their different components for excelling production under changing climatic scenarios are the need of the hour for the protein security of the nation esp. for the poor.


Insta Links:


Mains Link:

Q.Mention the advantages of the cultivation of pulses because of which the year 2016 was declared as the International Year of Pulses by United Nations. (UPSC 2017)


Prelims Links: 

With reference to pulse production in India, consider the following statements: (UPSC 2020)

  1. Black gram can be cultivated as both kharif and rabi crop.
  2. Green gram alone accounts for nearly half of pulse production.
  3. In the last three decades, while the production of kharif pulses has increased, the production of rabi pulses has decreased.


Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 2 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3


Ans: A