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Punjab potato farmer pioneers French fries

The farmer has joined hands with the Punjab Agro Industries Corporation for a Rs 80 crore state-of-the-art potato processing plant, reports Jasdeep Singh Malhotra.

business Updated: Nov 28, 2007 00:05 IST

You've heard of Indian Made Foreign Liquor. Now, it is time for Indian-made French fries.



An agro-processing plant set up by local potato farmer Mandeep Singh is set to give Punjab's Jalandhar district the tag of being the first to have an Indian company indigenously produce French fries in the country.



Singh has joined hands with the Punjab Agro Industries Corporation (PAIC) for a Rs 80 crore state-of-the-art potato processing plant built by the joint sector company, Satnam Foods.



Canada-based McCain, the world's largest maker of frozen French fries, launched work for a plant in Gujarat two years ago, but the Punjab unit is the first plant owned by Indians built with technology from European countries. PAIC has a 12.5 per cent equity stake in the project, which is likely to generate direct employment for 400 people.



Industry officials say French fries sold in Indian restaurants and fast-food eateries have been largely made from imported frozen fries.



"A majority of the top-class eateries in India import French fries from the US-based Lamb Weston and McCain at Rs 120 to 125 per kg. We supply the same quality for Rs 60 per kg," said Mandeep Singh, who took up potato farming in 1984. "We have already begun delivering on orders to Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) outlets in Delhi. Many more branded food giants are approaching us," he added.



The plant was made operational recently and makes French fries out of locally grown Chip Sona 1 variety of potatoes developed by the Shimla-based Central Potato Research Institute (CPRI).



Paul Thachil, chief executive officer of Mother Dairy, which is a key player in processed foods, said in Delhi that building a plant in India was not difficult but the key question was of the suitability of the potato. "Technically we can have a plant here. Anyone can do it, but the question is of the quality of potato," he said.



Satnam Foods is targeting a turnover of Rs 50 crore for 2008-09. It controls about 2,300 acres under contract farming in Punjab; Singh himself owns 1,000 acres of cultivated land.



The company will launch an eatery in Jalandhar, which expects to compete with McDonalds on both price and quality.