New Indian chickpea duty not a hard hit

An increase in India's chickpea levies made big news last week, but the bulk of Canadian acres weren't affected. | File photo

An increase in India’s chickpea levies made big news last week, but the bulk of Canadian acres weren’t affected.

However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem.

The levy went to 30 percent without notice in December, 40 percent in February and now 60 percent. It appears to only affect desi chickpeas.

“As we understand it, from Agriculture Canada, it isn’t the larger kabuli type that are affected,” said Gordon Bacon, chief executive officer of Pulse Canada.

Last week’s bump in import levies on the desi-type supports Indian farmers, creating a two-price system within that country, protecting producer prices after two good domestic crops in a row. Peas and lentils are also targeted with levies, but those didn’t increase last week.

Most of Canada’s kabuli chickpeas are currently exported to the United States, say marketers.

The highly variable pulse import levies are a problem shared by all pulse-crop exporting nations.

“What we need is some transparency from the Indian government. The international market needs a better understanding about both the raising and lowering of levies,” said Bacon, citing issues as serious as global food security problems being created by India’s actions.

Indian fumigation rules might be lifted for Canadian crops that are naturally free of insect pests, but even that isn’t written in stone because the agreement speaks to some yet to be defined terms, “mutually accepted technological protocols,” that Canadian officials haven’t addressed.

India harvested a record crop of 23 million tonnes of pulse crops in 2016-17, up from 16.4 million tonnes in 2015-16. India’s minimum support price program and the import levies on peas and lentils have helped to maintain the high domestic production, and farmers are unlikely to reduce acres any time soon under those programs, said Pravin Dongre, chair of the India Pulses and Grains Association.



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