In a bid to enhance shelf-life of potatoes, Gujarat will soon set up its first potato dehydration centre in Palanpur town with a handling capacity of 500 kg per hour.
The Centre has proposed to invest Rs 19.5 crore in Palanpur town of north Gujarat, accounting for the highest potato output in the state.
"A potato dehydration centre has been planned for Deesa near Palanpur, the potato hub of state. It shall have state-of -the-art machinery to be imported from overseas (possibly Switzerland), which can enhance shelf-life of potatoes," Gujarat Agro Industries Corporation (GAIC) MD N K Singh said.
The site for project has been finalised and the construction work will commence soon after the monsoon, according to officials.
The dehydrated potato flakes can be used in place of mashed potatoes. They are functionally like fresh potatoes and could be used for making traditional snacks like samosa, dosa, tikki and parathas, industry experts said.
GAIC is the state government's arm which promotes agricultural activities and fosters development of agro industries in the state. The move is expected to ease problems of wastage during the time of potato glut in the largest growing region of the state.
"If a potato dehydration facility is set up here it will benefit the farmers and shall help them fetch a better price for their produce," Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC,) Deesa's Director Babu Mali said.
"A potato glut in Deesa occurs every 3-4 years. It has emerged as a cyclical phenomena linked to favourable weather conditions once in three or four years. It results in heavy losses to farmers," Mali said adding that last year thousands of tonnes of potato had to be thrown on the streets.
The average area under potato cultivation in Gujarat during last three years has been around 52,800 hectares, with production of 11,47,300 MT and around 21,741 kg per hectare yield.
Banaskantha district accounts for nearly 6-7.5 lakh MT of potato production in the state annually, with an average area of nearly 24,000 hectares under cultivation during the last three years, a state agriculture department official said.
"Presently, there are around 70 onion dehydration units in Gujarat, with majority of them engaged in exports but not a single facility to dehydrate potatoes," industry experts said.
The fast growth of fast food chains in the country could be a major driver for dehydrated potato flake market in India. Often fast food chains use flakes for processing of food products like cutlets, burgers, etc. It can be used for several other items also, they said.
The prices of imported flakes is high due to its higher basic price and duty. With the development of domestic industry, around 30-40% reduction in prices can be expected, which shall increase consumption, they said.
There is a latent demand for flakes amongst the small producers of snacks using substitutes like dehydrated potatoes. These could switch over to potato flakes if available at reasonable prices, industry experts said.
India is a very insignificant player in the global trade of dehydrated potato products. The exports of dehydrated products from the country are confined to neighbouring countries in form of dehydrated slices, chips and powder manufactured by small units, they said.