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Pulses Production Sustainability And its Role in Human Nutrition

pulses

In India, pulses are used as an important source of nutrition. Besides, nutritive values it also serves as an source of income for millions of farmers around the world. However, pulses consumption has seen slow but steady decline in both developed and developing countries. At global level, pulses consumption has seen no major changes in comparison with dairy and meat products in per capita consumption, which is low at 7kg/person/year. Despite low consumption, in many countries including India, the population growth rate exceeds farm output, i.e. farmers are not so much capable to grow enough pulses to keep up with increased demand and are forced to import pulses. According to FAO, the Green Revolution led to massive gains in yield and production of many basic foodstuffs. Pulses expanded only 55% while other crops such as maize, wheat, rice and soy had gain cumulative production between 1960 and.

Importance of pulses

Pulses are climate resilient and can be sown in rain-fed areas. They can fix nitrogen in the soil and reduce dependence on nitrogenous fertilizers. They enrich the soil in nitrogenous compounds and are beneficial for crop rotation and mixed cropping.  Hence increasing area under pulses or planting pulses as an inter-season crop promotes sustainable agriculture; the requirement of nitrogenous chemical fertilizers is reduced for the succeeding crops and periodical crop disease cycles are disrupted by the decreased use of chemical pesticides and weedicides (Venkateswarlu et al., 2008; FAO, 2016). According to FAO and United Nations, to fulfill the sustainable development goal’s three-fold objective viz. to achieve food security, to end hunger, to improve nutrition requirements and promotion of sustainable development, pulses consumption and its production should be enhanced in line.

Food Items

Protein (gm)

Fat (gm)

Energy (Kcal)

Calcium (mg)

Iron (mg)

Folic acid (mg)

Vitamin (mg)

Bengal Gram Whole

17.1

5.3

360

202

4.60

186.0

3.0

Bengal Gram Dhal

20.8

5.6

372

56

5.30

147.5

1.0

Bengal gram roasted

22.5

5.2

369

58

9.50

139.0

0.0

Black gram dhal

24.0

1.4

347

154

3.80

132.0

0.0

Cow pea

24.1

1.0

323

77

8.60

133.0

0.0

Green gram whole

24.0

1.3

334

124

4.40

0.0

1.0

Green gram dhal

24.5

1.2

348

75

3.90

140.0

0.0

Horse gram whole

22.0

0.5

321

287

6.77

0.0

1.0

Khesari dhal

28.2

0.6

345

90

6.30

0.0

0.0

Lentil

25.1

0.7

343

69

7.58

36.0

0.0

Moth beans

23.6

1.1

330

202

9.50

0.0

2.0

Peas green

7.2

0.1

93

20

1.50

0.0

9.0

Peas dry

19.7

1.1

315

75

7.05

7.5

0.0

Peas roasted

22.9

1.4

340

81

6.40

0.0

0.0

Rajmah

22.9

1.3

346

260

5.10

0.0

0.0

Red gram dhal

22.3

1.7

335

73

2.70

103.0

0.0

Red gram tender

9.8

1.0

116

57

1.10

0.0

25.0

All pulses

22.44

2.78

320.50

122.22

5.81

62.44

2.33

Global scenario of Pulses production

The major producers of pulses in the world are India (23.1 per cent), Canada (6.7 per cent), China (12.08 per cent), Myanmar (7.57 per cent) and Brazil (4.03 per cent), together accounting for almost half of the global output. India ranks first in terms of area and total production of pulses; yet, it is still not self-sufficient and remains a net importer of pulses because of high consumption needs. In 2013-14, total area under pulses was 25 million ha and production was about 19 mt while the demand was about 24 mt (Directorate of Economics & Statistics 2015). Also, compared to India, pulse output has been much higher in other major pulse-producing countries. The pulse yield in Canada improved from 1141 kg/ha in 1961 to 1893 kg/ha in 2012. However, the yield in India has not improved much, and has been less than 800 kg/ha even till 2011-12.  

On the price front, the government significantly increased the minimum support price (MSP) of pulses and strengthened the pulses procurement mechanism by designating additional central agencies to support farmers (IIPR 2015). However, till 2014-15, the announcement of MSP had been coming too late. By then the farmers had already decided on the crops to be planted. Meanwhile, price volatility has also been affecting the poor. In 2015-16, the supply of pulses was hit as it was a drought year and prices escalated to almost double of what they were in 2014 (Bera 2015). State governments have taken proactive steps to make pulses available at reasonable prices, including distribution through the public distribution system (PDS) by some states following the National Food Security Act (NFSA).

Ensuring a smooth supply of pulses at affordable prices remains a major challenge. Also, as mentioned earlier, diet diversification is not essentially associated with nutritional improvements. Given this and the fact that cash transfers are now being considered in lieu of take- home rations, it will be difficult to ensure that the cash transfers are spent on nutrition improvement (Editorial, Hindustan Times 19 September, 2017). An efficient institutional framework is a prerequisite for cash transfers.  

The Indian Scenario of pulses

Pulses are grown and consumed all over India. The major pulse crops in India include Bengal gram (chana), red gram (arhar/tur), green gram (moong), black gram (urad) and lentils (massar). Moth bean, Lathyrus, horsegram, peas and red kidney beans are the other pulse crops produced and consumed in India. Important pulse-growing states are Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand and Bihar.  

In 2013-14, India produced about 19 mt of pulses after that the per capita availability of pulses has been about of 38 g per day which is less than the recommended daily requirement of 40 g per day after accounting for seed, feed and wastage. Only with imports could the daily requirement of pulses be met. Starting year 2000, the net imports have shown an increase. This has been important to meet the demand for pulses. Prior to 2010-11, even after imports, the daily requirement could not be met. Given the malnutrition situation in the country, this is especially problematic. The consumption of pulses also varied among states. Till 2011-12, the majority of the states consumed less than the recommended dietary norm for pulses. In 2014-15, the domestic production of pulses fell to about 17 mt due to erratic rainfall and in 2015-16; it was estimated to be in the range of 17 to 19.5 mt with the demand being 24.61 mt (Economic Times 19 July, 2016). As imports of 5.8 mt had been projected for 2016, this probably just about helped meet the demand for pulses. The major countries from where pulses are imported are Canada, Australia and Myanmar and now, Mozambique.  

On looking at the fractile-wise analysis of consumption of pulses in rural and urban sectors across India in 2011-12, it is observed that only for the highest monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) class, the per capita consumption has been above the 40 g per day requirement and that too only in the urban sector. For all other fractiles and on the overall, the actual consumption of pulses is much less than the norm. The demand-supply gap is reflected in the higher prices in recent years. High volatility in prices for long periods, low productivity, and stagnation in production technology have all acted as disincentives for pulses production (Reddy 2006; 2009). In the fiscal year of 2014-15, the WPI for pulses was 228, which means it increased by about 128 per cent from the base year of 2005 and in 2016-17, it increased by almost 300 per cent. In 2014-15, there was a fall in production, leading to a rise in prices. Pulses were a major contributor of food inflation in India due to this fall in production.

dals

Pulses scenario on price

As per the report of Economic survey 2016-17, pulses price remained persistently high in particular tur and urad from mid-2015 to mid-2016 due to shortfall in domestic and global supply. The volatility in pulse prices is a major issue and needs to be taken care of. This volatility, which alternates between adversely impacting consumers and farmers, creates dilemmas for public policy. Pulses are grown by small and marginal farmers in dry land areas. Since there are different kinds of pulses, coalitions among farmers are difficult to build. High MSPs that raise the incomes of pulse growing farmers can help increase pulse production. There could be a virtuous circle whereby prices and incomes rise, creating a demand pull hat further increases yields, productivity and income that further strengthens the production of pulses. Joshi et al. (2016) claim that the production of pulses in India has not been very responsive to increases in minimum support prices or even in farm harvest prices. Farmers increase the area under pulses and intensify production only when they expect a big rise in prices. Small price increases get ignored because of high relative risks in production. Singh and Gupta (2016) quote NITI Aayog’s Ramesh Chand as contending that synergy between technology and MSP is extremely important to provide incentives to farmers to increase area under pulses. The 2016 Report on Incentivising Pulses Production through MSP and Other Policies recommended announcing MSP of Rs. 40/kg for Bengal gram for rabi 2016 and MSP of Rs. 60/kg for both urad and tur for kharif 2017 (adjusted for inflation between 2016-17) (Subramanian 2016). Minimum Support Prices for other pulses should be increased by the same percentage as calculated for tur, urad, and Bengal gram. However, a proper procurement mechanism should also be in place to provide further incentives to farmers.  

Consideration could be given to bringing pulses into the fold of PDS (as some states are already doing). There would be fiscal costs and implementation challenges but also benefits to nutrition and increased consumption of pulses. Distribution in PDS can only be feasible when substantial amounts are available. This is an important way to cushion poor consumers from inflationary effects of reduced consumption in times of high prices. This is an advantage of PDS over direct cash transfers which are not immune to the inflationary effects.   Since the launch of the National Food Security Mission (NFSM) in 2007, the MSP of pulses has been increased. The prices have more than doubled for all pulses between 2007-08 and 2016-17. However, timely announcement of the MSP is a major concern; it has to be announced before planting decisions have been taken by the farmers. Assured procurement and a lucrative MSP can incentivise farmers to increase the area under pulses. The guaranteed market for rice and wheat is a major reason why farmers do not grow pulses and shift to producing wheat and rice.

Minimum Support Prices for Pulses (in Rs. per quintal)

Year

Tur

Moong

Urad

Bengal Gram

Lentil

2007-08

1550

1700

1700

1600

1700

2008-09

2000

2520

2520

1730

1870

2009-10

2300

2760

2520

1760

1870

2010-11

3000

3170

2900

2100

2250

2011-12

3200

3500

3300

2800

2800

2012-13

3850

4400

4300

3000

2900

2013-14

4300

4500

4300

3100

2950

2014-15

4350

4600

4350

3175

3075

2015-16

4625

4850

4625

3425

3325

2016-17

5000

5050

5225

 

 

 

In spite of having the largest area and production of pulses, India suffers the most because India has more vegetarians than the rest of the world combined roughly a half-billion people.

For several decades after India's independence, until 2008, the production of pulses remained almost static in the range of 14 million tons. In 2013-14, India produced 19.25 million tons of pulses, which a year later was only 17 million tons, necessitating more imports. In 2015-16, India imported 5.79 mil-lion tons pulses, which made India the largest Importer of pulses in the world. In the last five years, except 2013-14, the import rose from 14.09 percent in 2011-2012 to 26.46 percent in 2015-16. With the continuous in-crease in demand for pulses in India, the import has increased to 72.33 percent in that period (Figure 3). At the global level, India has the largest area and production of pulses but productivity of only 0.65 t/ha, lower than the world's average of 0.9t/ha. The low productivity and increasing demand continues to increase the volume of annual imports.

Deficit production and increasing imports necessitate serious action to promote pulse cultivation at all levels especially in rain fed regions. Approximately 60 percent of the total cultivable land in India is rainfed and could be effectively utilized, saving as much as INR 25,691 crore, the value of total pulse imports in 2015-16.

Limitations of pulses cultivation and production

Major constraints for the cultivation of pulses include the availability of desired quality and quantity of high-yielding seed varieties of pulses. Many new high-yielding varieties were developed in the past two decades, but their performance is limited to providing 10-20 percent high yield vs local varieties. Due to inherited weaknesses, performance of these varieties is poor at the field level, and the moderate increase in yield does not attract farmers or make any significant change in the national level of production. The need is to develop varieties with better yield advantage and desirable characteristics that are best suited to a semi-arid climate.

The ever decreasing pattern of shrinking land holdings discourages farmers from growing medium to long-duration varieties, which occupy land for 240-270 days. Medium and long-duration varieties don't allow farmers to grow a cereal crop such as wheat and paddy, which provide a minimum cash income and year-long food security of the family. Traditionally, fertilizer use in pulses is very low. Except soybean, most pulses are on the lowest priority for farmers to use recommended quantity of fertilizers. The average use of chemical fertilizer to pulses results in low yields. For the growth and development of root nodules, phosphorous is absolutely necessary and the application of 40 kg P2O5 average per hectare has been recommended. With the withdrawal of subsidies on fertilizers, the decline in the use of non-nitrogenous fertilizers has an adverse impact on yield.

The final testing ground of any technology is in the farmer's field. Evidence suggests that the 100 percent requirement of nitrogen can be met to activate the nodulation process through the inoculation of efficient strains of rhizobium when coupled with sound agronomic practices. However, studies show that the adoption of these bio fertilizers is negligible. Many farmers claim that inoculation with rhizobium is not providing the desired level of response. Rhizobium inoculation is probably not very effective in pulses. If this technology were as efficient as claimed, it would have to be "pushed" even now by government agencies as there would be enough demand by this time. Sustained use of rhizobium inoculants in the long run seems to be difficult. Of course, strict quality control standards need to be enforced in the manufacture and sale of the inoculants. The perception and the high incidences of diseases and pests cause high losses that result in low production and high protection costs. Another thing is that resistant/tolerant varieties have limited availability to farmers. The main reason could be the weak seed production program. The incorporation of insect-resistant genes, without compromising the yield in field verification trials, is yet to be commercially daily viable. Chemical pest control is the only option left for farmers at present for effective control of pest and diseases.

Even though several plant protection chemicals with method and time of application have been developed, the use of pesticides in pulses is still very low. In general, farmers apply chemical spray at the stage where losses cross the economic threshold level. This clearly shows that technological stagnation is primarily responsible for the backwardness of pulses in the country as a whole. Market prices are largely controlled by local buyers irrespective of minimum support price (MSP), and procurement of pulses by the government agency is very limited, such as wheat and paddy. The government has suggested procuring pulses at MSP whereas local market trends show that the rate offered by local dealers is much below the MSP. Therefore, pulse growers are skeptical about the influence of MSP on actual market prices.

Future prospects of pulse production sustainability

Pulses are an important source of high-quality protein complementing cereal proteins for the substantial vegetarian population of India. Pulses can be produced with a minimum use of resources and hence become less costly even than animal proteins. Pulses meet their nitrogen requirements to a great extent by fixing  atmospheric nitrogen in their root nodules. Pulses can provide a sustainable solution in rain-fed area which occupies 67 percent net sown area, contributing 44 percent of food grains and supporting 40 percent of the population. Development and cultivation of more draught-tolerant varieties of pulse can save India's food and nutritional security.

Pulses are the most suitable crops to grow in water-stressed regions. Pulses require less water, improve soil health, and suit the local micro climate for smart agriculture. Only forty-three gallons of water (one gallon equals 3.785 liters) are required to produce one pound of pulses, whereas wheat, rice, and meat require 660, 1,056, and 1,142 gallons of water respectively. Therefore, in rainfed farming systems, the cultivation of pulses, considered as smartcrops, can help address climate change in agriculture. In comparison with resource intensive crops such as wheat, soy, paddy, and maize, pulses are more remunerative crops due to fewer input needs and high market value. In addition, pulses improve soil health by fixing atmospheric nitrogen and adding humus content to the soil, which improves the soil's biological, chemical, and physical properties.

In rain-fed farming systems, pulses can improve overall farm income by introducing short-duration varieties of pulses into existing crop rotations. A pilot study done by Sehgal Foundation (NGO based in Gurugram) with thirty farmers of district Nub confirm that a short-duration variety of pigeonpea provide 229 percent (Rs 35,843/ha) higher profit than pearl millet. The high return demand for promoting pulses in rain fed areas provides opportunities for small land hold-en to shift from subsistence farming to profitable farming. The BCR and ROI of pigeon-pea are 3.82 and 2.82, whereas for millet the BCR and ROI are 2.41 and 1.41. The high BCR and ROI of pigeon pea indicate that this is a more profitable crop than millet. Traditionally, Indians have pulses, especially dais, as an important part of their daily diet, and pulses are the only sources of protein for more than half of the vegetarian population. Proteins are required to grow new cells and tissues, Claws are essential for all and especially fin growing children.

As can be seen in the table above, non-vegetarian food sources contain good amounts of proteins and, as India has a large vegetarian population, they can derive needed proteins from pulses and legumes. Pulses can be excellent sources of proteins in our diets. According to the Indian Market Re-search Bureau (IMRB, 2015) survey, which was conducted by interviewing 1,260 Indians, protein consumption in the diet of adult Indians (nine out of ten Indians) is less than their daily protein intake. The survey noted that 91 percent of the vegetarians and 85 percent of the non-vegetarians were protein deficient. The reason for this can be attribute to changes in eating habits and lifestyle. The tremendous increase in pulse prices also contributes significantly to his deficiency. Therefore, mass scale promotion and cultivation of pulses is needed to enhance the income and nutritional security in rural and urban India.

Authors:

R.S. Sengar and Alok Kumar Singh,

Department of Agricultural Biotechnology

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel University of Agriculture and Technology, Meerut- 250110

Email – alokankur8483@gmail.com


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