Potato Farming In Gujarat: McCain
Sourcing the Right Potato
Even prior to its entry into India, McDonald's was committed to working with local suppliers and farmers to source all its requirements. The company therefore spent 6 years and around Rs. 450 crore to set up the food supply chain even before opening its first restaurant in the country.
India, despite being the world's second largest producer of food, loses nearly Rs.50,000/- crore worth of food produce due to wastage at various levels, especially due to lack of proper infrastructure for storage and transportation. McDonald's India has pioneered the cold chain management system wherein the freshness, crispness and nutritional value of vegetables and processed products are retained.
In 1991, McDonald's was looking for a particular variety of potato for manufacturing its world famous French fries. One of McDonald's suppliers – Lamb Weston – invested heavily in setting up production lines to process these potatoes and make the fries. However, production was discontinued, as the right quality of potatoes could not be sourced.
The right quality potato in India was unavailable as farmers used seeds from the preceding crop, which in turn resulted in a single variety and poor quality potatoes. McDonald's needed the process-grade variety of potato for its products, which are as per McDonald's international quality standards.
The variety of potato required by McDonald's had to have a certain length, high solids content and low moisture content while the ones that were available were of the table-grade variety. Nonetheless, as per its initial commitment to local sourcing, McDonald's and its supplier partner, McCain Foods Pvt. Ltd., began to work closely with farmers in Gujarat and Maharashtra to develop process-grade potato varieties.
McCain Foods Pvt. Ltd. is the world's largest French Fry Company in the world. Established in 1957, today it is a brand that is known and respected in more than 100 countries, generating worldwide sales of more than $5.5 billion. It has more than 55 processing plants on 4 continents (29 of which are French fry and potato specialty facilities) and exports to more than 80 countries worldwide.
Leaders in agronomy, technology and innovation, McCain Foods Pvt. Ltd. partnered with McDonald's to work with farmers in Gujarat (specifically the towns of Deesa and Kheda) to interact with agronomists and field assistants to demonstrate the best practices – right from better agronomy techniques like irrigation system, sowing seed treatments, planting methods, fertilizer application programmes and better storage methods for the produce. In addition to this, the farmers also benefit through incremental monetary gains as they sell directly to McCain Foods Pvt. Ltd. instead of commission agents. The result of these efforts has been that now the Gujarat potato crop has been utilised to make McDonald's ‘Chatpatey' Potato Wedges.