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India-bound pigeon peas stranded in Mozambique fueling inflation worries

India, the world’s biggest producer and consumer of pigeon peas, relies on imports during the final quarter of the year before the new crop harvest in January

By: Eastern Eye

AT LEAST 150,000 metric tons of pigeon peas bound for India are held up at ports in Mozambique awaiting export permission from customs despite multiple requests from sellers over the past few weeks, five industry officials said last Wednesday (8).

India, the world’s biggest producer and consumer of pigeon peas, relies on imports during the final quarter of the year before the new crop harvest in January. Over half of India’s imports of pigeon peas are sourced from Mozambique.

The delay in shipments has pushed up prices of the protein-rich staple, known in India as arhar or tur, used to make daal curry in the peak-consumption festive season.

“Stocks are currently held in port-based warehouses and sellers are incurring huge storage and re-fumigation costs,” said Suhas Chougule, managing director at MozGrain Lda, a local subsidiary of Ma’aden Saudi Arabia, based at Beira, Mozambique.

“Despite having all the necessary export documents per law, our 200 containers are stuck. The customs office in Mozambique is not granting permission nor are they giving any reason.”

The delay has lifted wholesale prices in India by nearly 10 per cent in two months as stocks diminish during the lean supply season, adding to food inflation ahead of state elections this month and national polls due early next year.

However, a few exporters have obtained export permits, allowing them to ship 50,000 tons of pigeon pea to India, traders said.

In response to a Reuters query, Mozambique’s agriculture ministry shared a statement issued in October that said it had cancelled phytosanitary certificates for goods in the customs process from September 22 after finding 400 of them to be false or dubious, but added it had resumed licensing since then.

India’s pigeon peas production in the 2023/24 season is expected to fall after lower rainfall in key crop areas in August and October.

India will need to import 1.2 million tons of pigeon peas in the year ending March 31, 2024, up from last year’s 894,420 tons, the government estimates. Satish Upadhyay, a Mumbai-based pulses importer, said shipment delays had caused a $100 (£80) per ton price increase in recent weeks.

“Mozambique is aware that India is in dire need of pigeon peas this year due to a poor local crop, and they are taking advantage of the situation,” he said.

Last month, India expressed concerns over shipment delays during a meeting between its consumer affairs secretary, Rohit Kumar Singh, and Mozambique’s high commissioner in New Delhi, Ermindo A.. Pereira.

During the meeting, Pereira assured his counterpart that necessary steps would be initiated to ensure smooth flow of pigeon pea exports to India, according to an October 27 Indian government statement.

However, the situation in Mozambique hasn’t changed, Bimal Kothari, chairman of the India Pulses and Grains Association, said.

“Mozambique seems to be exploiting India’s supply shortage by delaying shipments and holding India’s food security hostage,” Kothari said.

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