It is that time of the year when manufacturers of potato chips make a beeline for Malwa to procure potatoes that are specially grown for making chips. The potatoes have low-sugar or zero-sugar value and are ideal for making good quality chips.
Encouraged by the response, the Madhya Pradesh government has drawn up plans to make a potato hub in the Mhow region. "The Horticulture and Food Processing Department of the state plans to register potato growers and officials are holding talks with villagers in this regard," said an official of the department.
Of all the places, Kodariya, a village on the outskirts of Mhow, comes alive with many makeshift factories, which surface during the months of February, March and April.
These open-air workplaces are very simple yet they support a business that in this village alone is estimated to be to the tune of Rs. 18 crore. Significantly, around 70% of potato produced in the Malwa region is used for making potato wafers.
Rajasthan is the biggest consumer of dried potato chips, accounting for 40% of the total production, followed by Gujarat, Mumbai and even far-off cities like Guwahati and Chennai.
This year, the potato prices are hovering between Rs. 12 and Rs. 15 per kilogram. Last year, potato growers in the Malwa region were hit by sluggish prices owing to a bumper harvest. The cold storage association of Madhya Pradesh had also raised the rents for storage, citing input price hike. Things, however, are much better this year with farmers being able to make small profit.
The method of making chips is very basic. New potato with tender skin is put in a drum with abrasive inner lining on a rotating table. The bruised skin is washed away with water and the potatoes are put in another contraption fitted with different blades to slice the potatoes.
The chips are boiled in water, drained and sun dried before being packed. For three months, it provides employment to some 10,000 to 12,000 people who work at the factories.
Apart from micro industries, big players such as Pepsico, ITC, and Parle also purchase potatoes in bulk from the region.