Potatoes and Parliamentarians

As usual, I was very much excited to hear the real good debate on FDI in multi-brand retails in Lok Sabha. The subject had been covered very extensively since the government policy announcement permitting it. Some of the MPs really speak very well. For anyone who wish to hear a good debate and that too in Hindi, Sushma Swaraj must be one of the best. She does a lot of home work too. In the same way, for English I love to hear Chidambaram and Arun Jaitley. There are few others too. These debates provide a lot of unknown information too.

The Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushma Swaraj, while moving the motion claimed that the Indian operations of McDonald’s Corp. was buying its potatoes from abroad rather than from local farmers: “The farmers of Agra produce the highest potatoes, they are forced to throw them on the road but McDonald’s does not buy potatoes from them. From where do they get potatoes? Airplanes full of potatoes are imported from abroad,” The Company promptly refuted through a statement in media.

However, the potatoes came on coming. Even Kapil Sibal mentioned about it soon after Sushma: “The market price of potato is Rs.3 per kg, Pepsico gives Rs.7 per kg.” However, Kapil Sibal would have also provided the price of the finished product that Pepsico sell made out of a kg of potatoes and if that conversion cost is justified. I mention this because we as consumer always buy potatoes at any outlet for more than 5 times that the farmer gets. .
And Congress MP and son of the chief minister of Haryana wished to correct the leader of opposition about the sourcing of McDonalds’s potatoes for fries from the farmers of Gujarat while speaking against the motion. You can hear in the clip of one TV channel.

NDTV got interested in the potato references and in the evening of December 5 showed a humorous clip on potatoes as brought in different speeches by MPs of various parties.

I had read earlier in ‘Business Today’ how the right quality of potatoes was developed in India for the McDonald. As I understood, the local researchers and the farmers assisted by the foreign companies had developed the potatoes of right quality. The seed potatoes produced in cold condition in hills in Himachal are planted and grown by the farmers in Gujarat. And if any foreign vendor follows such policies, it will be always in the interest of the farmers of the country and must be welcomed. Suzuki did the same in auto sector and developed hundreds of vendors for auto parts that are now even exporting too.

However, I was surprised by a report in Hindu Businessline that confirms what Sushma Swaraj said in the parliament about the import of potatoes by the company.

“Official import landing data accessed by Business Line suggest the company imports fairly substantial quantities on a regular basis. In November alone, MacFries (McDonald’s trademark French fries) worth Rs 3.5 crore were imported through Nhava Sheva port. Data show that the company imported a total of Rs 6 crore worth of frozen French fries since January-November 2012. (Rs 1.4 crore worth of frozen fries in January, Rs 58 lakh worth in August and Rs 59 lakh worth in October), through just that one port.”

It appears, the leader of opposition must have taken information from similar sources. I don’t expect her to make irresponsible statement against a company. But perhaps the government must provide the real status.

Will someone among the MPs ask the government to let the people know the truth?

And if you wish to know more about the potato story, here are some:
1. FDI pan sizzles: If only potato could fry ’em
2. All about potatoes

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