Pulses for food security & nutrition: The technology perspective

Since the 1970s, there has been a minor increase in the production of pulses in India, especially compared to increases in cereal production. Between 1975 and 2005 total pulse production in India increased by 32 percent overall while cereal production increased by 280 percent, similarly, pulse yields per hectare increased by only 25 percent while those for cereals increased by 211 percent.  On a global level, pulse yields in India are also low and remain significantly below that of other countries.

Making Pulses Affordable Again

Per capita pulse consumption in India has decreased from 60 grams per day in the 1950s to 38 grams per day currently due to significant price increases in recent decades while production has remained relatively constant.  This is particularly worrying as pulses are an important source of complex carbohydrates and the main source of protein for poor Indian families.

India Set for Record Grain Harvest

India’s Farming Minister Radha Mohan Singh recently announced that India is expected to achieve a record food grain harvest of 270 million tons this year, up 18 million tons from last year, due to a well distributed monsoon and an increase in the area under food grain cultivation from 101 million hectares to 105 million hectares.

Pulses: Current Trends and Outlook

Pulses are an essential source of protein and minerals for much of the Indian and global populations, to reflect this the UN has named 2016 as the ‘’International Year of Pulses.’ A recent IFPRI discussion paper investigates the trends and outlook for both global and regional pulse economies, looking at the supply, demand, trade, prices, and outlook of the pulse sector during the last three decades.

Pulses for Sustainable Agriculture & Health

Global demand for pulses is rapidly increasing. As noted in a recent editorial, filling the demand-supply gap will be critical.  For the South Asia region, pulses are traditionally important food commodities and cheap sources of protein. The region is now experiencing shortages of pulses which is causing an increase in imports.  In an effort to increase consumption of pulses, a number of states have included them in the Public Distribution System and a recent IFPRI discussion paper evaluates the opportunities and constraints for including pulses in the PDS.   Pulses are also emerging as the ‘future food’ in developed and many African countries. The challenge is to increase pulses production efficiently not only to meet the domestic requirement in the region but also supply for new consumers in developed and African countries. 
On January 5, 2016, IFPRI held a roundtable discussion on “Enhancing Opportunities for Increasing Production and Consumption of Pulses.” This event highlighted the importance of increasing consumer awareness of the nutritious benefits of pulses, as well as integrating government efforts and filling research gaps to encourage pulse production and consumption. A second dialogue was organized on May 31 and June 1, 2016 and featured representatives from eight different countries, 48 discussions, and 104 poster presentations.

The main themes of this latest workshop touched on major aspects of the pulse sector - Global and Indian Perspective on Pulses; Pulses Production, Consumption and Environmental Services; Pulse Consumption Behaviors; Price Behavior of Pulses; Drivers of Pulses Production; Pulses, Climate Change and Eco-system Services; International Trade in Pulses; Aggregation Models for Pulses; Leveraging Markets to Increase Pulse Production; and Evidence for Market Integration in Pulses; and Value Addition for Pulses through Food Convergent Innovation. An additional session on Farmer Producer Organization for Pulses was attended by farmers from Bihar and Maharastra.

The main theme that emerged from the inaugural session was that focus should be placed improving India’s national pulse sector through the use of technology and increased government support. There is scope for India to become the world’s largest pulse-producing country, but to make this happen, research must identify ways to fit pulses into the country’s current cropping pattern and yield gaps must be addressed so that pulse price volatility can be better managed.

Public Distribution of Pulses in India

A recent IFPRI discussion paper investigates the case of pulse subsidies in select Indian states and their impact on consumption and nutrition, investigating whether subsidizing pulses through the Public Distribution System (PDS) would lead to a significant increase in pulse consumption.

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