NEW DELHI: The agriculture ministry plans to lift ban on exports of pulses and edible oils, and seek cabinet approval for imposing 10% import duty on chana, to help protect farmers’ interest, government officials said.

“The farmer should get an opportunity to sell to whosoever gives him a good price. With this aim, we are proposing to lift export ban on pulses and edible oil,” said an official from the agriculture ministry.

India — the biggest producer of pulses at 19 million tonnes and its biggest importer at 3.5-4 million tonnes — banned exports of pulses in June 2006 and has been extending the ban since then. Only kabuli chana and organic pulses and lentils, with a ceiling of 10,000 tonnes per annum, are allowed to be exported.

Similarly, export of edible oil in bulk has not been allowed since 2008. It is permitted in small packs of up to 5 kg with minimum export of price of $1,100 a tonne.

Industry insiders said lifting of export ban would be a boon to farmers and industry players, without making a big impact on consumers.

Pravin Dongre, chairman of Indian Pulses and Grains Association, said, “If exports are allowed, farmers will get a better realisation for their produce, there will be more investment in the sector, and it will be huge game changer for the pulses industry.”

He also said a 10% import duty on chana would ensure remunerative prices to farmers and push planting of the crop.

Many national brands from Tata to Adani are present in branded pulses retail.

Chana in Naya Bazar wholesale market of New Delhi is priced about Rs 37 a kg.

Dongre said the new crop will arrive from February, adding that a marginal increase in prices will not make a huge impact on consumers.

BV Mehta, executive director at Solvent Extractors’ Association of India, too, said that export of 50,000 tonnes edible oil, out of the 19 million tonnes produced in the country, would hardly make a difference to consumer prices.

“Export in bulk should be opened. There is huge demand for groundnut oil in China and rice bran oil in Japan and Thailand,” he said.

Groundnut oil, sesame oil, mustard oil, coconut oil and ricebran oil are also much in demand by the non-resident Indians living abroad.

India is the top importer of vegetable oils, but, Mehta pointed out, only 10,000 tonnes of edible oil is exported from the country annually.

A government official said, “We can continue to import cheap palm oil, but let the high cost groundnut and other oils be allowed to be exported to help farmers.”

The Central Board of Excise and Customs recently increased customs duty on crude oil to 7.5% from 2.5% earlier, and duty on refined edible oil to 15% from 10%, through a notification.