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- Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - From Print Edition


LAHORE: Prices of black gram have skyrocketted, owing to around 50 percent reduction in its production this year, according to official data released on Monday.The widening demand and supply scenario is likely to turn worse in the near future as no tangible steps are taken to regulate its trade.


According to the official production and price data, the production of black gram, which is also known as kala channa, has been badly damaged due to frost and prolonged dry spell, it said. Because of adverse weather conditions, gram production reduced by 58.8 percent against the target of 0.539 million tons and 48.3 percent less than last year’s production of 0.429 million tons in Punjab, according to the data.


The intensity of the situation can be gauged from the fact that average production of black gram during the last five years (2007/08 to 2011/12) in Punjab stood at 0.454 million tons, while the current year production drops to just 0.221 million tons, it said.


The national production of gram for 2011/12 nosedived to merely 0.291 million tons, it said.The impact of low yield of black gram was also reflected on its byproducts, including daal channa and baisan.


Market men fear further upward trend in prices of black gram and its byproducts with advent of the holy month of Ramazan in a month or so when its demand tends to increase. This trend could be reversed if departments concerned undertake timely steps for its import, they added.


Gram, a Rabi crop, is grown on an area of 2.4 million tons in the country. As many as 87 percent of the gram crop is planted in Punjab. Out of this, 96 percent is cultivated in non-irrigated area and, thus, totally dependent on winter and spring rains.


The main growing areas include Bhakkar, Layyah, Mianwali, Khushab and Jhang districts. According to official wholesale data of Punjab markets, price of black gram jumped up to as high as Rs90-95 per kilogram on June 23 from Rs65-70 per kilogram on February 15. Gram price was as low as Rs56-62 per kilogram in wholesale markets about a year back on June 23, 2011.


The byproducts prices of black gram are also showing rising trend in the last couple of months. The wholesale price of gram pulse jumped up to Rs93-98 per kilogram on June 23 from Rs63-69 per kilogram on February 15 this year.


On June 23, 2011, price of gram pulse was just hovering around Rs58-63 per kilogram in the wholesale market.Furthermore, owing to low supply constraints, gram flour price soared to Rs100 per kilogram on June 23 from Rs65-70 per kilogram recorded on February 15 this year. On June 23, 2011, price of gram flour was just hovering around Rs60-63 per kilogram in the wholesale market, according to the data.


These figures are suffice to give a glimpse of the upcoming rising trend in gram prices and its byproducts before the arrival of Ramazan. Market men observe that prices are likely to go up, as the demand outpaces supply even ahead of Ramazan in the wholesale market.


As per the market men, around 60,000 tons of black gram stocks are available with traders from last year’s crop. They observed that steps should be taken to bring these stocks in the market, besides, import of black gram from India is a feasible option and the government should swiftly plan imports from the neighbouring country.


Sources said following disruption in the supply of gram from Punjab, there is no mechanism in place after the passage of 18th amendment for regulating its trade with a view to stabilise gram and its byproducts prices.Though agriculture and allied subjects have been devolved to provinces, import and export of commodities are still being managed by the federal government.


Moreover, there is no body in place that looks into production and demand and supply situation of certain commodities and take subsequent measures. The lack of coordination between federating units is also one of the major reasons behind this brewing crisis.


Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (PASSCO) has no gram stocks this year and the high-ups have not taken steps to import it.When contacted, an official said, the federal government has not asked PASSCO to import black gram.


Another official said the Punjab government has written a letter to the federal government, asking to import black gram due to shortage in its production.There is a need to impose a ban on the export of black gram, he said.


Meanwhile, an official of the newly-established federal ministry of national food security and research said that steps are being taken to regulate trade of black gram, keeping in view its low production.


The ban on exports of black gram and its allied products are being slapped, the official said, adding that a proposal is being considered to give subsidy to gram importers with a view to reduce its prices in the local market.The departments concerned are also being sensitised to take steps against hoarding of black gram and allied products, the official added.