India Cutting Back on Canadian Lentil Purchases

Indian purchase-orders for lentils from Canada have declined over the past few weeks. This has happened since Prime Minister Trudeau made his statement of ‘credible’ reports connecting agents for India’s government with the assassination of a Canadian in a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia, in June of this year. 

Canada is currently India’s largest import-source for the pulse crop. Lentil is used throughout India as a primary protein ingredient, and softener, for their cultural dietary food-staple soup dish called Daal.  

Last year, red lentils and potash fertilizer, both produced mainly in Saskatchewan, were Canada’s second and third largest exports to India, and only overshadowed by coal shipments. But with current diplomatic tensions high between India and Canada, purchase-orders for Canadian lentil shipments to India have declined.

Pulse Canada, representing growers and the pulse crop industry, had just begun to recover some confidence in dealings with India, after years of erratic policies and non-tariff sanctions imposed by that country on pulse-import shipments. 

Mac Ross, director of market access and trade policy for Pulse Canada, says that India’s agricultural sector, and the pulse crop sector in particular, is a focus for Prime Minister Modi. Ross says Modi needs India’s agriculture’s political support, and that Modi has always promoted self-sufficiency for its large agricultural sector.

“The have 120 million farmers, and agriculture, with all its allied sectors, is the largest source of livelihood in India. That’s a large part of their voting. Modi, the Prime Minister there, has had a very strong political mandate to protect farmers at all costs, and double farmers income. That’ll be achieved, in part, by self-sufficiency in pulse production.” 

According to data posted on India’s trade ministry website, Canada was – by far – the largest supplier of lentils to India last year, accounting for more than half of India’s lentil imports.

Pulse Canada’s Mac Ross, when speaking to a pulse-grower’s symposium, sent a reminder that Canada has an export-driven economy, and our reality is that only   a few countries make up the largest volume of agricultural exports. And right now India is a big one.

“Here in Canada, we’re extremely dependent on the export market. The export market, in general, and on a few major markets in particular. Globally, India’s the largest pulse consumer. We still have to address and work through some of these issues. And the reality remains that we do rely on just a few number of export markets.” 

Currently, senior government officials in the country’s capital city of New Delhi are stating that no formal instructions have been made to India’s import industry to stop or impede imported food shipments.