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Why Delhi street vendors may drive the prices of kabuli chana upward when they get back to business

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Pune: Sale of kabuli chana has dipped by 35%-40% in the country mainly because people across northern India are not eating their regular dose of ‘chole‘ from office and school canteens, cart vendors, restaurants, and langar, market insiders told ET.

This, however, has helped keep prices of the commodity stable in spite of poor crops in India and some other parts of the world, they said.

Chole bhatura and chole kulcha are among the most popular food dishes in northern India while chana chaat is a popular snack item. But their sales have tumbled due to lockdowns, movement restrictions, a large chunk of people working from home, and schools and colleges taking classes online.

Pan India consumption of all varieties of white chickpeas is expected to fall to 265,000 tonnes this calendar from 420,000 tonnes in 2019 and 400,000 tonnes in 2018, said Navneet Singh Chhabra, director at kabuli chana exporter and supplier Globar Garbanzo.

“The main reason is white chickpeas is a premium product of the pulses industry, consumed mostly in restaurants, street foods, weddings, social gatherings and hotels, which have been affected the most by the pandemic,” he said. “Home based consumption is always limited.”

Traders said consumption of kabuli chickpeas, also known as garbanzo, has declined globally, too, as there are no tourists in Dubai or pilgrims in Saudi Arabia – places where it’s a popular food item.

The prices had so far remained stable as demand and supply remained balanced thanks to fall in consumption that matched the lower availability.

However, with economic and social activities starting to pick up, prices of kabuli chana have started rising, gaining about 10% during the past fortnight, market insiders said.

Price of 7-9 millimetres grade kabuli, used in Indian household preparations, has increased by about Rs 5 per kilogramme to a range of Rs 55-64/kg, they said.

Trade expects that exports of kabuli chana in the Currey crop year from February 2019 to January 2020 will be similar to last year when the country exported 1,15,000 tonne of kabuli chana.

This year, the country has exported 62,000 tonnes of kabuli chana from February to June.

“If Covid-19 situation eases in the coming months and out of home consumption increases, then we see big demand for kabuli, which can directly influence the prices taking them northwards,” Chhabra said. “Imports are not feasible due to import duty of 44% and Mexico, which is a major supplier of kabuli, has sold most of its stocks.”

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