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Authors: Nedumaran S, Abinaya P, Jyosthnaa P, Shraavya B, Rao P and Bantilan C
Published: 2015. Working Paper Series No. 60. ICRISAT, Patancheru, Telangana, India.

Summary and Conclusion

Grain legumes are important as it is a source of income and nutrition to billions of smallholder farmers and consumers around the world, especially in developing countries. The main objective of this report is to examine the global and regional trends in area under cultivation, production, yield, trade, price and consumption of eight major grain legumes— Dry bean, chickpea, cowpea, lentil, pigeonpea and faba bean, soybean and groundnut. The trend analysis reveals the growing importance of pulse crops across all economies and the lack of research efforts in the developing countries. In the developed economies, the commercial benefits from expanding pulse production are being realized more than ever in the past few decades. About 50% to 75% of the national research funds in developing countries are allocated to rice and wheat alone. Poor government support, low productivity of new cultivars and biotic and abiotic constraints due to marginalization of pulse crops are the main factors of low production of legumes in Asia and Africa. In India, the high post-harvest costs (marketing margins) are eating up the profits. Additionally, the poor yields impede the realization of high market prices relative to cereals.

Another matter of concern in pulse production is the huge yield gap between developing countries and developed countries. This is evident from the fact that production in developed countries has increased due to yield improvements whereas in developing countries it has been primarily due to area expansion. The yield growth between 1980 and 2004 in developed countries was 2% per annum and in developing countries, it was about 0.4% per annum (IFLRC-IV, 2005). Shifting pulse cultivation to limited-irrigation zones and improving input usage can have a huge impact on boosting yields. Moreover, the government should take steps policy measures reduce the trade- off between land allocated for cereals and pulses substantially. The low marketability of pulses, high risks in yield and process are the principal factors that put off farmers from cultivating pulses.

Pulses have a thin and volatile market. Developing countries still grow pulses as a subsistence crop whereas pulses, such as soybean, are grown as a commercial crop in the West. Some European countries, which import soybean from the West, have attempted producing their own protein-rich foods but were hardly faced with any success. The developing countries are yet to tap into the huge market for stock feed in industrialized countries. A persistent increase in the demand for food legumes in Asia and Africa has led to a rise in imports. The money that is lost on foreign exchange could well be invested in the domestic market for attaining self-sufficiency. The demand for pulses spurred by the population and income growth in the developing countries has resulted in some developed countries increasing their domestic production to capture these markets. Therefore, it is high time the developing countries realize the huge potential of pulses in increasing the soil fertility and nutrition and take steps in increasing the productivity and thus, the production of pulses.