MAPUTO, The livelihoods of thousands of Mozambican farmers may be at at risk following last week’s decision by the Indian government to restrict the import of pigeon peas (dal), a pulse widely used in Indian cuisine.

In July 2016, during a visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Maputo, India and Mozambique signed an agreement whereby India would import 375,000 tonnes of pigeon peas from Mozambique between 2016 and 2019. But the Indian authorities have now imposed quotas on pigeon pea imports, moving this crop from the free to the restricted category of imports.

The new rules state that only 200,000 tonnes of pigeon peas can be imported in any one fiscal year. In the 2016/2017 fiscal year, which ended on March 31, India imported 703,540 tonnes of pigeon peas, from many countries. These imports come on top of a bumper pigeon pea crop in India, and are blamed for depressing the prices paid to Indian producers.

After the bumper production, a restriction on imports was necessary to support local prices,” media reports quoted Pravin Dongre, chairperson of the India Pulses and Grains Association, as saying.

“In the current fiscal year traders have so far imported more than 160,000 tonnes of pigeon peas. In August 40,000 tonnes is likely to land in the country. So there is no scope for new import contracts,” said a Mumbai-based importer who insisted on anonymity.

Under last year’s agreement, India promised to import 100,000 tonnes of pigeon peas from Mozambique in the 2016/17 agricultural year, rising to 125,000 tonnes in the following year, and to 150,000 tonnes from the 2018/19 harvest. If India honours this agreement, imports from Mozambique would amount to more than 50 per cent of the 200,000 tonne cap on imports.

However, it is possible that Mozambique may escape the new quota restriction as a report by the Press Trust of India (PTI) new agency states that the restrictions will not apply to the government’s import commitments under any bilateral or regional agreement.