Tur import quota for Myanmar may not be enough to woo back farmers, opine experts

With India restricting its imports of tur from Myanmar, farmers in the neighbouring countries are fast replacing tur with other crops such as sesame, maize and cotton, for which there is a ready market in China and other countries close by, according to experts.

“From a total of 3,00,000 tonnes in 2015, tur production in Myanmar has fallen to 80,000 tonnes this year. As the farmers are not sure of India’s requirements of volumes up to 2,50,000 tonnes, which was normal earlier, they are shifting away to other crops,” said Vatsal Lilani, Managing Director of Evertop Commodities Pte Ltd.

Lilani was among trade experts who participated in a webinar organised by Indian Pulses and Grains Association and India Myanmar Chambers of Commerce to discuss the tur, urad and moong situation in India and Mynamar.

He said Myanmar started growing tur only 20 years ago and it exports 80 per cent of tur to India year after year. But since India’s tur production is relatively higher since 2016, the exports have been dwindling, resulting in huge carry-forward stocks. As compared to 2.4 lakh tonnes exported to India in 2015, the exports in 2020 were only 1.5 lakh tonnes, Lilani said.

In June this year, India signed a memorandum of understanding with Myanmar to import 2,50,000 tonnes of urad and 1,00,000 tonnes of tur annually through private trade for the next five years. Apart from Myanmar, India sources pigeonpea from African countries as well.

The rain factor

“The MoU numbers of 1,00,000 tonnes is a well-considered one. But from a trade perspective, there is a very strong feeling that the number should be significantly higher,” Lilani said. India, he said, consumes about 4 million tonnes of tur a year, and in that sense 1,00,000 tonnes is only 2.5 per cent of the total consumption. But its impact on the overall price situation can be significantly higher. Secondly, pulses production in India is dependent on rains for a large extent. Today, there is an added uncertainty of unseasonal rains at the harvest times. So, a higher MoU quantity would provide insurance against that as Myanmar farmers would be incentivised to grow more tur, he said.

“Once he migrates to growing a different crop, it will be very difficult to bring him back. Large parts in Sagaing region (which borders the Indian States of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland), responsible for much of the tur production, have already moved away. Farmers do not have a desire to grow tur again unless there is a pattern of consistent demand,” he said.

According to Desh Ratna, an international recognised commodity trader, India received 65 per cent of pulses beans exported from Myanmar consistently over the last five years. Tur, black gram and green gram account for nearly 70 per cent of pulses produced in the neighbouring country. Quite like tur, 70 to 80 per cent of black gram produced in Myanmar is also exported to India, Ratna said, adding that soon after India liberalised the import of pulses in May on account of high domestic prices, almost a lakh tonne of black gram was exported to India, most of which came to the Chennai port.

Source: The Hindu Business Line