India's lentil imports from Canada surge despite diplomatic strains

Indian lentil buyers slowed purchases from Canada, fearing that New Delhi or Ottawa could impose barriers on trade

Reuters
Published : 21 Feb 2024, 04:08 PM
Updated : 21 Feb 2024, 04:08 PM

India's lentil imports from Canada more than doubled in 2023 despite diplomatic strains over the murder of a Sikh separatist leader, as a shortfall in production prompted the South Asian country to boost overseas purchases, government and industry officials told Reuters.

Relations soured after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last year said Canada was "actively pursuing credible allegations" that Indian agents were potentially linked to the June 2023 murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen.

India has denied any formal government role in Nijjar's murder.

After Trudeau's comments, Indian lentil buyers slowed purchases from Canada, fearing that New Delhi or Ottawa could impose barriers on trade.

But this was short-lived, and India's lentil imports from Canada surged 120% to 851,284 metric tons in 2023 from the previous year, said a government source who asked not to be named in line with official rules.

Canada is India's main source of imported lentils, a protein-rich staple used to make daal curry.

After tensions flared in September, buyers attempted unsuccessfully to find alternatives, said a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trade house.

"Canadian supplies were most competitive despite higher freight. Imports from Australia also improved because of better crop this year," the dealer said, who declined to be named due to company policy.

India's lentil imports rose by 162% in 2023 compared to the previous year, reaching a record 1.68 million tons, at a cost of$1.25 billion, the government official said.

Lentil consumption in India has risen to around 3 million tons, but output remains stagnant at approximately 1.3 million tons, said a New-Delhi based trader.

"Even in 2024 we can expect imports of more than 1.3 million tons of lentils. Lower rainfall in many producing states is affecting production," the trader said.

India is the world's biggest producer of protein-rich pulses, with a production of 29.2 million metric tons, but it's not enough to meet local consumption demands, making it the biggest importer of pulses as well.