Decades after it began transforming milk production and affordability through an innovative model based on the Amul pattern, National Diary Development Board (NDDB) is set to do likewise on pulses.

It already markets pulses through its Safal brand and plans to widen the presence through more exclusive tie-ups with farmer-producer organisations (FPOs). After it perfects a procurement mechanism on a national scale, NDDB plans to get into extension services – providing inputs to farmers and hand-holding to improve productivity.

“It is the same (as the) milk model, where we first entered into marketing and then started providing services like vaccination, fodder, etc,” ,T Nandakumar, chairman of NDDB, told Business Standard.

He said as in milk, the bulk of the return it will get from selling the Safal brand of pulses would be shared with growers. Arvind Subramanian, the government’s chief economic advisor, had only a few days earlier called for replicating the Amul model in pulses, to tackle the growing demand and supply gap. He said so while delivering the Dr Verghese Kurien Memorial Lecture, organised by the Institute of Rural Management, Anand, at the NDDB headquarters.

‘Operation Flood’, which started in the 1960ss and is considered the world’s largest diary development programme, made India a milk surplus nation from a deficient one. Kurien was the architect. NDDB created a national milk grid, linking producers through India with consumers in over 700 towns and cities, reducing seasonal and regional price variations while ensuring the producer got a major share of the price consumers paid, by cutting out middlemen.

By reducing malpractices, it had helped dairy farmers direct their own development, placing control of the resources they created in their own hands.

The bedrock was the village producers’ co-operatives, which procured milk and provided inputs and services, making modern management and technology available to members. The aims were to raise production, augment rural incomes and ensure a fair price to consumers.

RS Sodhi,Amul's MD
RS Sodhi,Amul’s MD

It is the same three pillars on which NDDB now wants to base its pulses initiative but through the FPOs. “We plan to start with purchase of 20-30 tonnes directly from farmers under the same model. Pulses will be unpolished but of superior quality, grown without the use of pesticide,” said Nandakumar. He said the FPOs registered with Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium would be targeted first.

“We are planning to approach the Centre for giving us relaxation from the procurement and storage norms recently issued,” Nandakumar said.

The Board also plans to set up a processing centre in Jharkhand for freezing peas and processing of tomatoes, with an investment of slightly over Rs 70 crore. The centre would have a capacity of 100,000 tonnes and directly benefit around 50,000 farmers. The Board has also started working with the government of Uttarakhand to revive its milk cooperatives.

“This would ensure that women in the hills who have been badly impacted after the Kedernath and Badrinath floods would get a source of income,” Nandakumar said.