India extends lentils import at zero duty till March 2025

The Centre has extended the import duty exemption on masur dal (lentils) by another year till March 31, 2025. The Ministry of Finance, through an extraordinary gazette notification dated December 21, 2023, extended the import duty relief on lentils.

Import of lentils are being allowed duty-free to help contain inflation. In the normal course, imports attract 30 per cent Customs duty. “The extension of duty exemption by an year will benefit the importers and will boost the supplies,” said Bimal Kothari, Chairman, India Pulses and Grains Association.

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The imports of masur have seen a considerable increase in the current financial year with a section of consumers of tur dal shifting to masur dal in the recent months. Pulses led by tur dal have turned expensive this year with the erratic monsoon impacting the domestic output fuelling food inflation. According to the trade estimates, the high price of tur dal has seen a demand destruction of around 15-20 per cent with consumers shifting to other pulses.

Expected move

Including the expected imports during November, the total imports of lentils during April-November stood at 11.48 lakh tonnes, according to iGrain India compared with 8.58 lakh tonnes in the financial year 2022-23. “The industry was expecting this exemption” said Rahul Chauhan of IGrain India.

India imports lentils mainly from major producing countries such as Canada and Australia. Recently, the government has removed the retaliatory customs tariff on imports of lentils from the United States.

Meanwhile, the acreages under masur in the ongoing rabi cropping season, which were lagging till last week, have gained pace and exceed last year’s levels for the first time. As per the latest data from the Agriculture Ministry, the acreages under masur as on December 22, increased to 17.97 lakh hectares (lh) over 17.77 lh a year ago. However, the overall acreage under the rabi pulses is still down at 137.13 lh over 148.53 lh a year ago, largely on account of dip in chana acreages.

Due to the favourable weather conditions in the key growing regions such as Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, the pulses trade expects higher yields of masur boosting the output by 5-10 per cent this year. Production of lentils during 2022-23 stood at over 15.8 lakh tonnes, higher than previous year’s 12.69 lakh tonnes.

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