Thursday, August 17, 2006

Hey buddy, wanna buy some dal?

Last December, I wrote a series of posts about Indian dal. This year, I might not be so interested in repeating the series. Wednesday's Inside Scoop column by Amanda Berne in the S.F. Chronicle included an item about a reduction in the supply of Indian lentils:

A recent halt of lentils imports from India has many local Indian restaurateurs, shops and consumers flustered. Due to poor crops and rising prices, India banned exports as of June 30, in hopes of stabilizing prices in India. Lentils are the main source of cheap protein for vegetarians there, especially in lower income communities. The ban is expected to last until March.

In the Bay Area, that means short supplies of legumes, especially the pigeon peas, or toor dal, and urad dal, a black lentil. During the past few weeks, wholesale prices have jumped, from 50 cents per pound to more than $4 per pound.

The Times of India has more:

The Indian government's decision to ban the export of dal (lentils) has hit Indian Americans hard.

The ban, imposed in June, has resulted in the commodity getting scarce in Indian grocery stores in the US, with prices almost doubling at some places.

"The minute (the ban) was announced, wholesalers put up the price," Jalil Hay, owner of an Indian grocery store in Stockton, California, told India New England , an ethnic newspaper. "(Prices) have almost doubled and tripled."

Mahendra Patel, owner of Raja Foods in New York, told the Newsday newspaper that he increased the dal prices after the Indian ban came into effect.

Normally, he charged his customers 50 to 60 cents a pound, but now prices have shot up to $1.10 to $1.20 a pound.

Patel supplies groceries to more than 300 Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi stores in the New York area.

A staple in Indian meals, the commodity comes in different varieties. Though lentils are produced in other countries too, the Indian lentils are regarded as being of superior quality.

"No other country processes lentils like India," said Kavita Mehta, owner of the Minneapolis-based Indian Foods Company. "Many (lentils) are split and hulled and (India) does it the best."

"It's a basic food item. It's like if the US (government) would say you can't get salt in America," said Neil Soni, owner of House of Spices, a New York-based Indian food wholesale company.


The Indian government's decision came in the wake of a drought that severely affected agricultural output.


According to the report, since early July, Kaushal has had to double the price, which is currently at $2 a pound. With the ban expected to stay in place at least till March next year, Indian Americans are faced with the prospect of little 'dal-chawal' at home.

Perhaps I should take Sukanya's suggestion and focus on domestically produced beans and lentils this winter...

Indexed under Ingredients, India
Technorati tags: Food : Cooking


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