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Masur or Lentil is one of the earliest crops cultivated by human beings. A native of the central Asian region and known for its lens shaped seeds and vast range of colours, Masur dal still remains an important item in global food basket. Protein content of masur is rated next to soybean.
Lentils are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates and are high in fibre and in protein.
Lentils are a cool season crop with a restricted root system that is only moderately resistant to high temperatures and drought. Lentils have proven to be invaluable in crop rotation, helping to control weeds, diseases and insects, as well as improving soil texture and fertility.
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India is the largest producer of masur accounting for nearly 25 percent of the global output. Major centres of masur cultivation are Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. West Bengal, Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab and Assam also contribute to the country’s masur production.
Among the different pulses grown in the country, the respective share of production has been: chickpea (bengal gram / chana) 40.50 %; pigeon pea (tur /arhar) 17.90 %; green gram (moong) 9.20 %; black gram (urad) 9.10 %; lentils (masur) 6.10 % and other minor pulses 17.20 %.
Masur is sown during November-December and harvested in February- March. Peak season of supply begins from April. Production of masur vacillates to a great extent every year according to the rains and moisture level in the soil.
The sentiments of traders play a significant role currently, as a consequence of the lack of free-flow of information. Prices are also influenced by imports and output in other countries as well as substitution with other pluses such as chana, tur, yellow peas etc
India exports around 100,000 tons of Masur dal every year. The country also imports nearly 50,000 tons every year. The main destinations of exports are Sri Lanka, Egypt, UAE, Sudan, Yemen and Bangladesh. Imports are mainly from Canada, USA, Turkey and Australia.
Global output of masur is estimated to be around 4 million tons per year. Leading producers are India, Canada and Turkey. However in 2006-07, the global output is expected to drop by 17 percent to 3.46 million tons mainly due to fall in production in Canada. Global supply, however, is expected to shrink by only 6 percent to 4.36 million tons due to carryover stocks.
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Though India is largest producer, Canada is largest exporter with a 50 % share of the export market. The other important exporters are the USA, Australia and Turkey.
Production data available from the FAO suggests dry edible beans account for up to a third of world pulse output, followed by field peas at around 20%; chickpeas at 13%; broad beans at 7%; and lentils, cowpeas and pigeon peas at roughly 6%.