At first we only caught a whiff of it. But as we walked towards the tiny processing unit we were welcomed by that comforting and warm aroma that we’re all too familiar with. As we filed up on the short stairway, waiting for the doors to open, our minds conjured up images of what the scene would be like. And sure enough there they were: sliced, diced, mashed, and blanched — potatoes in different sizes and shapes. They each made their way to an industrial fryer, releasing a mouth-watering aroma that has earned this tuber a universal fan following. Hemant Gaur, an agri veteran who runs this potato processing plant in Chakan, is one such potato-lover. And this fondness for tuber combined with his 17-year experience led to the establishment of Siddhivinayak Agri Processing (SV Agri).
India sure loves its potatoes given that the country ranks second in the order of global production after China with an annual rate of 45 million tonne. But securing this cash crop from the farm to your local vegetable vendor or global snack producer, is a process fraught with loopholes. Produced mainly in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Gujarat, India produces two variants of the crop — one for consumers and one for food processors. A bumper crop in West Bengal and UP, for the second consecutive year has resulted in prices falling below the cost of production of Rs.3 per kilo in some states this year. With loan waivers and a minimum support price of Rs.8-10 being the clarion call among farmers, few of them have gone further to point out the need for more chips or other processing factories to absorb the excess crop.
Sowing it right
While the government mulls over a nationwide solution, two entrepreneurs from Pune seemed to have cracked the code of addressing the potato supply chain. Gaur and Ganesh Pawar, who boast of at least two decades of experience in the farm inputs sector, have created an end-to-end market linkage for the tuber. Gaur, the 46-year-old Institute of Rural Management graduate, gained experience across the farm inputs chain, right from sunflower seeds to potatoes during his stints at Marico, Dabur, PepsiCo and Walmart India. “I realised that the big food processors need an organised back en