The United Nations General Assembly had declared 2016 as the International Year of Pulses (IYP) and had nominated FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) as the entity that would implement this concept in collaboration with different stakeholders. The idea was to highlight the crucial role played by pulses in maintaining a healthy diet, sustainable production of food, and also food security.
The last four decades have witnessed a steady increase in international trade in different kinds of organic pulses. In the three years ending in 1971, only a meager 4 percent of total pulse production was exporter/imported globally. This figure had increased to 18 percent in the triennium ending in 2013.
Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean have a larger share in the imports of pulses as compared to exports. Asia showcases a large demand for pulses and is responsible for 64 percent of the total global imports. The top pulses importers (country-wise) are India, China, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey, USA, UAE, Italy, UK and Spain.
What are pulses?
The edible seeds of the plants in the legume family, pulses are considered superfoods due to the many nutritional benefits they offer. They contain high levels of dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and complex carbohydrates which make them a highly recommended food the world over. They assist in digestion, lower blood cholesterol levels, and help prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart problems and obesity.
The major types of pulses in reference to their world production and consumption are the common bean, chickpea, dry pea, lentil, cowpea, mung bean, urad bean, and pigeon pea. In addition to these major types, there are also a few minor types that are produced and consumed worldwide. Of the different types of pulses, dry pea, faba bean and lupins are used as animal feed in some of the developed countries.
This is the largest producer as well as consumer of spices in the world. India accounts for 25 percent of global production, 15 percent of international trade, and 27 percent of world consumption. Recently, the Union Ministry of Commerce changed the status of three pulses of tur, moong, and urad from restricted to open category. This move is expected to further drive pulse imports to the country. It is anticipated that this free import policy would facilitate the quick import of pulses in India by traders who would be more than eager to fill in-demand shortages. The imports would primarily be from Myanmar, Africa, and neighboring countries.
India has signed a MoU with Myanmar to import 250,000 tons of urad and 100,000 tons of tur every year from 2021-22 to 2025-26 in the form of private trade. Moreover, the production of pulses is also increasing in the country, opening up avenues for pulses export from India.
China started importing pulses in the early part of the 1990s and the volume of the same has only increased over time. The demand has been fuelled by corresponding demands of dry peas from the food processing sector, specifically the vermicelli producers. The two countries from where China imports are Canada and the USA.
The major pulses imported are dry peas and green grams. This industry however lacks efficiency as it is dominated by smallholder producers with small parcels of land.
Pakistan is the second-largest importer after India in the Asian region. The major pulse imported is desi chickpeas from Australia, Ethiopia and Burma. The country imports Kabuli chickpeas from the USA, Canada, India, Russia, Sudan and Argentina and also red lentils from Canada.
In March 2020, a fiscal stimulus package of Rs. 1.2 trillion was approved by Pakistan’s Economic Coordination Committee, where the rate of advance tax on imports of myriad pulses has been reduced to 0% from 2%. This is part of a policy measure to provide relief during the economic low triggered by the lockdown. It’s covered include peas, chickpeas, beans, kidney beans, and lentils.
Egypt is a substantial food and pulses importer, with rice being the only food crop with an exportable surplus. In value terms, the imports of pulses increased significantly in 2020 in the country. The period between 2007 and 2020 recorded buoyant growth in the sector, with the imports of pulses reaching a peak in 2013.
The main suppliers of pulses to Egypt are Australia, the UK and Lithuania. Between 2007 and 2020, Lithuania demonstrated the most notable rate of growth in terms of purchases. In terms of value, the largest suppliers to the country are Australia, Canada, and Lithuania.