Since the last week or so, customers flocking to the hundreds of McDonald’s outlets in Maharashtra have found a key ingredient missing from their burgers, wraps and more. Tomatoes have been withdrawn from McDonald’s items because, according to the company, there have been “quality issues with the produce”.
In Maharashtra, most of the the winter crop of tomato comes from Niphad and its adjoining talukas in Nashik district, while the Junnar tehsil in Pune provides the summer crop. Multi-national chains usually follow a farm-to-fork model, under which growers directly supply the produce to their stores.
Selected stores of McDonald’s follow the same model in Maharashtra. Confirming that McDonald’s outlets in the state have stopped serving tomatoes since last week, a spokesperson of the fast food chain said, “We have observed certain quality issues in tomatoes and the current supplies are not meeting McDonald’s stringent quality standards. So, we have decided against using the ingredient in certain cities.”
The spokesperson added that the chain was monitoring supplies on a daily basis and would start serving tomatoes as soon as the produce met their quality standards. On the other hand, growers lamented that heavy rain in Nashik during the fag end of monsoon season had affected the produce. Santosh Gorade, a farmer from Takli village in Niphad taluka, said heavy rain had washed away almost 80-90 per cent of the crop. “The crop was almost market-ready, but the rain destroyed it. The next pick was spotted, and the produce was of inferior quality,” he said.
At the wholesale market of Pimpalgaon Baswant, the arrival of tomatoes has dropped by about 25-30 per cent. Dipak Bankar, chairman of the market, pointed out that as against the arrival of 1.5 lakh crates (one crate holds about 20 kg of tomatoes) recorded in November, only 1 lakh crates were arriving in the market. “Due to quality issues, the produce has not been fetching a good price,” said Bankar. Tomatoes from Pimpalgaon are also exported to several places, including Bangladesh and Dubai.