Government claims pulses prices easing, markets disagree

New Delhi, Nov 19 (IANS) The government on Thursday said prices of pulses were easing as per reports from states due to de-hoarding operations and arrival of fresh crop, but a look at the retail rates reveal that this daily source of protein continues to remain dear.

“Retail prices of pulses have registered declining trends as per market reports from the states. Release of pulses seized under de-hoarding operations is being expedited,” the ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution said in a statement.

“Arrival of new crop has also started. This will help to moderate prices further,” it said, adding that Tur or Arhar dal was cheaper by as much as 3.59 percent in the past week alone at Rs.152.11 per kg on November 18, against Rs.157.77 before that.

Similarly, it said the price of Urad dal was down by 6.08 percent — from Rs.150.43 a week ago to Rs.141.28 on Wednesday.

But at the retail level, the government’s claims did not appear to hold ground.

At the Big Basket online retail store, Tur dal was quoting way above at Rs.201 per kg and Rs.375 for a two-kg bag.

Reliance Fresh also priced its Tur dal at a price of Rs.219 per kg.

At other retail stores, prices fluctuated anywhere between Rs.190 and Rs.230 per kg.

Even the commerce ministry data on wholesale price index for October, released on Monday showed that the pulses remained dearer by 52.98 percent over the past year.

Even when compared with the previous month, there was a spike of 9.17 percent.

The build-up during the current fiscal year, that is since April 2015, has also been rather steep at 41.45 percent.

Similarly, data on consumer price index released by the ministry of statistics and programme implementation showed a 22.24 percent inflation rate of pulses as on July 2015, compared to the previous year.

The consumer affairs ministry also said thousands of tonnes of pulses had been seized under the de-hoarding operations by the states, which were auctioned or offloaded in the market to increase availability.

Curiously, while data released on November 12 said 1,33,828.31 tonnes had been seized, that released six days later showed a lower quantity of 1,32,777.14 tonnes had been confiscated.

At the same time, the prices of some other items of mass consumption — onions and tomatoes — were rocketing.

On Wednesday, Cabinet Secretary P.K. Sinha reviewed the prices and availability of essential commodities, especially pulses, tomatoes, onions and edible oils in an inter-ministerial meeting.

“It was observed that the increase in prices of tomatoes and onions is largely on account of disruption of supplies due to heavy rains in the southern states which is expected to be temporary,” a press note issued after the review said.

“The situation is expected to ease in the coming days,” the statement added.

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