Indian Pulse Conclave Communique
In February, a contingent of Pulse Australia members converged on Delhi to participate in the Indian Pulse Conclave. The Conclave is a biennial event aimed at bringing pulse traders around the world face to face with their Indian counterparts for the purpose of furthering trade and better understanding the Indian pulse market.
While there were a number of outcomes from the Conclave, summarised below, one of the more significant was the agreement reached between the industry peak bodies of Pulse Australia and the Indian Pulse and Grain Association (IPGA).
Representatives from Pulse Australia met with IPGA at a side meeting chaired by Austrade to establish ways both organisations can work together for better outcomes for their members. Representatives from Grain Producers Australia(GPA) and the Australian Grains Industry Market Access Forum (GIMAF) were also in attendance.
Both Pulse Australia and IPGA signed an agreement for greater exchange of information about respective pulse crops and longer term trends in quality needs; on ensuring consistent messages to respective governments in relation to the implications of market interventions and other trade policies; and provided joint support for GPC mediations as the preferred form of dispute resolution.
The underlying tone of the Conclave was not surprisingly tempered by the trade disruptions resulting from recently imposed tariffs on most imported pulses, and the uncertainly this has created. It was reported that trade flows are diverting chickpeas and yellow peas to markets such as China, in addition to the established alternate markets of the subcontinent.
As India moves into election mode, (elections May 2019) and rural constituents are a major focus for the ruling BJP Party, there is no great incentive for the government to ease tariffs at this time. The impact on the Australian trading and production sectors of these tariffs is very evident – less evident, however, is the impact of the tariffs on the Indian domestic trade, where importing pulses
has become more financially stressful for importers, highlighting the need for Australian exporters to complete due diligence on counterparties and manage payment terms.
Major talking points on Indian Pulses total supplies and demand:
• India produced a record 23 mln tonnes of pulses in the 2016–17 (Jul–Jun) crop year and output could be close to that figure in the ongoing crop year as well on a higher area, but most likely a lower yield.
• The Indian Government retains a goal of becoming selfsufficient in Pulses. Time will tell if this aspirational goal is achieved; however for the foreseeable future, it is clear that India will continue to rely on imports of pulses in order to supplement any domestic shortfalls.
• The heavy reliance on unpredictable Monsoons indicates that domestic shortfalls will continue to be a regular occurrence in India until such time that farming practices and plant genetics improve significantly.
• A rise in output over the last couple of years, record imports, and a large government buffer stock are keeping markets well-supplied and local prices depressed. We must assume that as a result, India will sharply reduce imports of pulses this year.
• India's pulses imports are likely to nearly halve to 2.5–3.0 mln tonnes in the financial year starting April due to ample stocks in the country and uncertainty over the government's policy.
• In Apr–Dec 2017 around 5 mln tonnes of pulses had been imported. By the end of March, the figure could be around 5.5–5.7 mln tonnes.
• Concerns that the government may take more steps to limit imports of pulses are also expected to keep imports lower. Some participants were suggesting a lift to 100% tariff on chickpeas was likely. This would be the maximum (bound) rate according to WTO guidelines.