Agriculture Policy Briefing

There’s Little Debate on Processable Quality of Fruits & Vegetables in India: Vikas Mittal, MD, McCain Foods

Vikas Mittal, MD, McCain Foods India Pvt Ltd. Photo by Vivian Fernandes

McCain Foods India Private Ltd retails frozen potato products like fries, tikkis and wedges. It also supplies these to McDonald’s, the American fast food chain. Ten years after McD’s set up its first outlet in India, at Delhi’s Basant Lok in 1996, McCain began contract farming operations in Gujarat’s Banaskantha district. It has a processing plant at Mehsana. McCain thought of sourcing potatoes initially from Punjab but found the winter not conducive for potato growth. So it settled on Gujarat.

The family-owned Canadian company shuns the media. Here are rare insights from the managing director of its India operations, Vikas Mittal, from his address at industry-chamber Ficci’s seminar on doubling farmers’ income with “smart” marketing solutions.

  • Though India is a large producer of potatoes, only two percent of them can be processed (because potatoes for French fries have to be oblong, high in solids and low in sugars so they do not caramelize upon frying and turn brown. For wafers they have to be round).
  • There is little debate in India on processable quality. The share of processable varieties in any fruit and vegetable in India is in the single digits. Worldwide the share is more than 50 percent.
  • World over the bulk of produce is processed; the question to be asked in India is how do we connect farmers with processing industry.
  • Gujarat was not a potato-producing state. It became so by collaborating with McCain.
  • The losses in warehouses, storages and during transportation are nowhere to the standards we like. (Sukhpal Singh, Professor,  Centre for Management of Agriculture, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, says estimates about wastage of fruits and vegetables in India are exaggerated. Except in tomatoes, it is is about 10-12 percent, and not 30-40 percent, as is commonly believed. There is value loss as lower quality is sold at a lesser rate, he says, but little is thrown away).
  • We can stretch the life of any fruit or vegetable crop by 8 to 12 months (perhaps he means through protected farming in poly houses). Farmers must be given the right technology and provided finance.
  • Farmers’ income will double when they can sell throughout the year and not soon after harvest.
  • Raising support prices is not the solution to raising farmers’ incomes. The solution is to reduce cost and improve yields. McCain has had some success in this respect in Gujarat.
  • Mechanisation can be a “game changer.” For that we must have field sizes where machines can be deployed. Fragmentation is a social problem that must be tackled through land leasing and cooperative farming.

(Photo of Vikas Mittal by Vivian Fernandes).

Email This Page

Leave a Comment


Hit Counter provided by technology news
Web Design MymensinghPremium WordPress ThemesWeb Development

I Do Not Understand Bt Cotton technology; I Know It Works

Kallanagouda PatilY Kallanagouda Patil, 46, of Uppinbetegeri village in Dharwad taluk  owns 52 acres jointly with his three brothers. He holds a diploma in agriculture from a school in Raichur. Patil grows cotton on ten acres, apart from sugarcane, potato, Bengal gram, jowar, tur,moong and vegetables. He uses groundwater to irrigate his fields. The water is drawn from a depth of 280 feet. Electricity is free so he flood irrigates the fields, except the one under banana  where he uses drip irrigation. He does not micro-irrigate cotton because it is closely planted and has to make way for another crop after eight months. This farmer has his cost all worked out. Making quick mental calculations, he estimates the cost of cotton crop at Rs 22,500 an acre and the realization from 17 quintals an acre at Rs 68,000. He had planted Bayer seed. ‘I do not understand technology, he says, all I know is if I use Bt seed there will be no

Pests Snack on Chilly But Not Cotton

RudagiF Basavaraj Rudagi, 48, did not grow cotton before 2008. This farmer from Saundhi village in Dharwad district’s Kundogol taluk made a partial switch to Bt cotton as chilly was susceptible to pest attack and yield was declining. From five acres in 2009, Rudagi had fifteen of a forty acre joint farm under cotton this year, when smartindianagriculture  caught up with him in February. He tried out Bayer in a change from Mahyco and Raasi seed. Rudagi says he got 11.5 quintals (100 kg) an acre from his rain-fed crop and at Rs 4,050 a quintal, his realization was a little over Rs 46,000. The cost, he says, is Rs 26,000 an acre, excluding rental earnings had he leased out the land. This does not mesh with the profit he claims he makes, but then he admits to not keeping crop-wise accounts. Rudagi also grows peanuts, coriander, gram, safflower and jowar. There is safety in diversity. And yes he plants pigeon pea or tur around the cotton crop for bollworms to feed on so they are not forced by the survival instinct to develop resistance to Bt protein.  In this sense he is quite a cut apart. Low cotton prices are worrying but what is the alternative?