Agri Business

Sourcing lettuce for McDonalds from Nilgiris

| Updated on: Oct 05, 2012
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The next time when you take a bite of that Iceberg lettuce in salad at any of the 270 McDonalds outlets across the country, thank the Nilgiris’ soil for providing it the crunchy and unique texture and taste.

Coonoor-based Green Earth Fresh Produce Pvt Ltd, run by a first generation entrepreneur C. Magesh Kumar, is one among the three and the sole supplier of the leafy vegetable from South India for McDonalds.

A Maths graduate, Magesh found his love for horticulture in the mid 90s and found that only Nilgiris soil has the ability to give him gold from green. After experimenting with many vegetables/fruits, he cultivated lettuce and entered the McDonald family in 1996. Then his company was known as Ooty Farms & Orchards.

“Ï spent almost Rs 1 lakh on travelling to meet the Big Mac guys to bag the deal. The challenging part was in convincing them that we, from a small town, could supply them the quality produce that they needed,” says Magesh.

What started off with just 10 acres has now grown into 100 acres spread around four places – Kookalthorai, Thoraihatty, chinna Coonoor and Coonoor – engaging about 100 contract farmers. Green Earth Fresh Produce churns out 1,250 tonnes of Iceberg lettuce a year of which, 90 per cent is being supplied to McDonalds. The rest heads to the domestic market.

“Lettuce is a 55-day crop and I get Rs 5 crore a year. I spend about Rs 1 lakh an acre,” he says.

On the demand side, Magesh says that it is growing at 25 per cent year on year and that he is ready to expand his acreage.

Initially, he was a summer supplier (between April and October) but now he harvests the leafy vegetable throughout the year.

He is also growing Iceberg lettuce on demonstration farms as a winter crop in Mysore and Dhimbam on the Coimbatore-Mysore route.

According to McDonalds, suppliers are informed of the specific parameters that need to be met their produce at the very start of the relationship with them. Suppliers are equipped with information on the particular variety required and given data on exactly how and when to harvest each batch of produce.

Each unit of lettuce harvested is tested for the head size, freshness and water content. Suppliers are also made to ensure that once harvested, the lettuce are stored at a consistent temperature ensuring that it retains its freshness and nutritional value.

On transportation and supply chain side, the Mumbai-based Vista OSI India coordinates with farmer-suppliers such as Magesh by aggregating the produce (Iceberg lettuce in this case), pre-cool them under required temperatures and do value-addition such as shredding before passing it on to the Big Mac outlets.

A progressive farmer, Magesh also grows other exotic vegetables such as zucchini, leeks, celery and is even growing strawberries on half an acre under polyhouse conditions.

> gayathri.gururajan@thehindu.co.in

Published on October 05, 2012

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