“We confidently and proudly state that ingredients used in our products are sourced locally, that includes the French fries,” [Vikram Bakshi, the managing director of McDonald’s India] said, a day after it was alleged in parliament that the fast food giant was importing its potatoes.
“Ask McDonald’s about their fries. They never buy potatoes from Indian farmers, saying their potatoes are too small,” Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj Tuesday said in a debate, seeking a ban on foreign equity in multi-brand retail trade.
But McDonald’s refuted her claim.
“Being committed to quality, we have stringent standards for the kind of potatoes we use for French Fries – they have to be of a certain length, have high solids content and low moisture content,” said the fast food giant.
“When we began developing our business in India, there were no process-grade potato varieties available in India. Only table grade variety of potato was grown. We, along with our supplier, McCain, have worked closely with farmers in Gujarat to produce process-grade potato varieties,” it said.
“These are mainly contract farmers in Deesa (North Gujarat) and Kheda (Central Gujarat). We continue to contribute in the growth of these farmers. McDonald’s remains steadfast to its commitment of working with local suppliers and farmers to source all its requirements in India.”
NDTV reported PepsiCo’s rebuttal of Sushma Swaraj’s claim:
PepsiCo India sources all its potato requirement from within the country. We are the largest procurer of potato in India and procured 240,000 MT of potato from Indian farmers in 2012 which is more than double of what we procured 5 years ago.
PepsiCo India has established a model of partnership with farmers and now works with over 24,000 happy farmers across nine states. Some of the key states include West Bengal, Punjab, Gujarat, UP, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Bihar. We have also set up a state of the art potato seed facility in Punjab and all the seed that we provide to farmers across the country is grown by Punjab and Haryana farmers.
However according to a different report by NDTV, Murli Manohar Joshi seemed to contest the adjective “happy” in the above statement:
You had said that PepsiCo has an agreement to procure potatoes from 10,000 farmers now as opposed to 1,800 when they started off in 2010. Cultivation is happening in 7,000 acres now compared to 5,500 acres in 2010.
You call this beneficial? It is far from that. This is what we call ‘monopoly farming’, where a foreign company monopolises even agriculture in our country.
Is that a case of heads I win, tails you lose?
Quite apart from the polemics, it is interesting to find out what these food chains are doing to farmers and agriculture. Mcjobs are proverbially bad jobs in the US and developed countries, but worse jobs like call centres are supposed to be great for India. It would be good to find out whether Mcfarms are good for Indian farmers in the same way. Do McFarmers commit suicide like farmers in Vidharbha? Do they protest inhuman treatment like Maruti’s factory workers in Manesar? Are they occasionally rendered both jobless and landless like farmers in Singur? Probably not. But are they approaching the level of income of urban youth working in call centers? This is a wonderful opportunity for in-depth reporting by some of our enterprising news magazines.