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Import of pulses surges to $202m

November 21, 2018

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The growing demand for foreign pulses puts additional pressure on country’s already depleting foreign exchange reserves.
The growing demand for foreign pulses puts additional pressure on country’s already depleting foreign exchange reserves.

KARACHI: Import of pulses, after witnessed a declining trend in FY18, bounced back from July onwards as lower prices in world market encouraged traders.

Imports soared to 316,324 tonnes costing $202 million in 4MFY19, from 192,942 tonnes valuing $172m in same period last year, up by 64 per cent in quantity and 17pc in value. The average per tonne price of pulses in 4MFY19 dropped to $639 from $893 per tonne.

Imports of pulses fell by 41pc in quantity and 44pc in value in FY18 to 723,843 tonnes ($535m) versus country’s highest-ever of 1.225m tonnes ($952m) in FY17. The average per tonne price in FY18 came down to $738 per tonne from $777 per tonne, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics stated.

Contrary to the decline in world market in the last four months, the wholesale market recorded a slight increase in prices as massive devaluation of the rupee against the dollar diluted the impact of falling world rates.

The price of various pulses like gram, moong and masoor crawled up by Rs10 per kg from June onwards to Rs98-105, Rs100-110 and Rs72-75 per kg, respectively while mash price jumped to Rs105-120 per kg from Rs80 per kg this June.

At the retailers’ end, consumers are paying Rs120-140 per kg for gram pulse while masoor and mung carry prices of Rs100 and Rs120 per kg, respectively. Mash rate is tagged at Rs140-160 per kg.

Karachi Wholesale Grocers Association (KWGA) Chairman Anis Majeed said in FY17 traders over-imported pulses that caused a surplus and kept prices almost stable, forcing traders to slow down imports in FY18. But by July this year, those stocks had depleted and hence, the imports grew in 4MFY19.

However, he said traders did not push up prices substantially in the last few months as arrival of low-priced imported pulses nullified the impact of rising transportation charges on account of diesel price hike and rupee depreciation against the dollar, while the market also witnessed slackness in demand.

Most of the imports take place on the basis of Cash Against Documentation (CAD) while hardly 5pc arrive through letter of credit (L/C). Imports via L/Cs can generate more revenue as against those through CAD, he claimed.

Overall production of pulses every year has plunged to around 700,000 tonnes in the last few years due to low crop of gram whole. Around 700,000-800,000 tonnes of chickpeas and other pulses are being imported every year from USA, Canada, Australia, China, Russia, Ukraine, Myanmar and Africa, while country’s pulse consumption hovers between 1.4-1.5 million tonnes.

On imports, the Department of Plant Protection (DPP) demands unnecessary certifications from the importers, making it harder to get clearance of imported consignments, he added.

Referring to additional documents and unnecessary paperwork being demanded by DPP almost every day, he said that pulses are a Non-Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) whose seeds simply cannot be scientifically modified and they are produced naturally yet the DPP has imposed the condition to produce GMO certificate for the imported consignment, resulting in blocking of a large number of containers at the ports and causing additional charges to importers on account of demurrage and detention.

He urged the federal government to declare pulses as non-GMO while DPP should be immediately directed to relinquish the unnecessary condition to produce these certificates so the pulse prices can be brought down.

The insect-free pulses were being referred to fumigation by DPP which was absolutely not needed, he said.

Exports of imported chickpeas and pulses after value addition should be allowed, which would certainly promote the local value addition industries and also create employment, he added.

Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2018

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