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No order to stop import of Mozambique pigeon peas, India HC says

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India should still meet its commitment to import 125,000 tonnes of pigeon peas from Mozambique this year, despite rumours in the Indian press the government could roll over part of this quota to the following year, the Indian High Commissioner to Maputo told Zitamar News.

“I haven’t heard anything from headquarters to suggest they are considering not meeting the quotas this year – as yet,” Rudra Gaurav Shresth said on Monday.

Indian e-paper Live Mint quoted an anonymous commerce ministry official saying that, while India stands by its five-year commitment to buy pulses from Mozambique,“It may happen that we will buy less than 1.25 lakh tonne this year and compensate it by buying more next year.”

“I don’t think this is an official line,” Shresth told Zitamar. “It’s an MOU commitment and we will respect it.”

Despite these assurances, as pigeon peas continue to rot in the fields across central and northern Mozambique, farmers and local government are losing faith that the Indian government will honour the deal.

The delegation from Mozambique that went to India to resolve the crisis, returned to Maputo on Monday. However no firm plan is yet in place for how to ensure the remaining 90,000 tonnes of the pigeon pea export commitments will be met this year.

Zitamar understands one option the Mozambican government is considering is to set up a certification system to share out among farmers the volume they can each export. However, advisors have queried whether such a system would be too complicated to implement at this stage.

Action needs to be taken soon. “This is a crisis on an unprecedented scale”, said a consultant who has been monitoring the situation in Zambézia.

“It goes beyond the 1.5 million pigeon pea farmers and their families – at least 7 million Mozambicans – who are immediately affected,” the consultant said. “With no money coming in from what should have been the dominant cash crop, there will be hardly any spending in shops, markets – the whole local economy in the central and northern provinces will suffer”

For those farmers that are able to sell their produce at all, prices have plummeted. Last year, pigeon peas sold for around 50 MZN/kilo, but today they are 5 MZN/kilo. Prices need to be above 10 MZN/kilo to cover production costs.

The World Food Programme estimates that between 5% and 30% of Mozambique’s four million farmers produced between 150,000-230,000 tonnes of pigeon peas this year. This could mean that even if India does honour its commitment, 105,000 tonnes of pigeon peas may remain unsold.

“The first priority is to see how much India will plan to purchase from Mozambique, and what other measures can be pursued to buy or consume existing stocks. That will be important to determine the extent of the remaining surplus we will be looking at,” Karin Manente, WFP’s National Director in Mozambique told Zitamar.  “We wait for a reply in the coming days. Then we can determine the timing and scope for the assessment, which would be done by government and partners, hopefully in November or December.”

If the economic impact is significant, “providing cash to the most affected and vulnerable farmers is a possible course of action,” Manente said.

The MoU

Under a five-year deal signed last year, the Indian government agreed to import at least 125,000 tonnes from Mozambique between 2017-2018. The intention was for this to be contracted through private traders, but if by January the import target has not been hit, the Indian government is committed to buy the balance.

However, following India’s own bumper pigeon pea harvest this year, the government issued a decree in August restricting global imports of the bean to 200,000 tonnes this year.

While Mozambique is officially exempt from this import restriction, confusion among traders on the ground has meant few Mozambican farmers have succeeded in selling their crop – and so far this year only around 30,000 tonnes of the peas have been exported.

© 2017, Zitamar Ltd. Reproduction and dissemination prohibited without written permission.

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