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Business News/ News / India/  Tomatoes go missing in burgers as firms cite crop shortage
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Tomatoes go missing in burgers as firms cite crop shortage

Notices indicating the unavailability of tomatoes were posted at some McDonald’s outlets in north and east India on Friday, posts on social media platforms showed.

Tomato prices have been on the boil, and have touched ₹120 a kilo in the capital. (PTI)Premium
Tomato prices have been on the boil, and have touched 120 a kilo in the capital. (PTI)

NEW DELHI : Amid soaring prices and a scarcity of quality tomatoes during the monsoon season, several fast-food restaurants in India have halted serving the culinary staple to customers.

Notices indicating the unavailability of tomatoes were posted at some McDonald’s outlets in north and east India on Friday, posts on social media platforms showed.

However, McDonald’s clarified that the decision to remove tomatoes from its offerings is due to the inability of tomatoes in some regions to meet its global quality standards rather than the rising prices of the popular vegetable.

Responding to a query, a spokesperson for Connaught Plaza Restaurants Pvt. Ltd, which operates McDonald’s outlets in north and east India, said seasonal crop issues are limiting procurement of tomatoes. However, the fast food chain continues to serve tomatoes across its outlets in Punjab and Chandigarh, where it can source in adequate quantities. “Due to seasonal crop issues arising out of farm fields in a few regions, there are not enough quantities meeting our quality specifications available. To ensure our customers get the best quality we are known to serve, we are constrained to hold tomatoes for the time being. We reiterate that it is not due to the surge in prices," the company spokesperson added.

The chain is “working towards resolving this issue by employing sustainable agriculture practices including hydroponically-grown tomatoes in a completely controlled environment to de-risk our requirements from vagaries of season," the spokesperson said. “We should be able to bring back tomatoes to the menu soon," the company added.

Restaurant chain Burger King, however, continues to use tomatoes in its burgers.

The issue comes as tomato prices have been on the boil; the retail price of tomatoes in the capital touched 120 a kilo on Thursday. Typically, periods of July-August and October-November are lean production months for tomatoes. July also sees the onset of the monsoon that amplifies challenges linked to distribution and increased transit losses pushing up price, according to a 30 June note by the ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution.

Meanwhile, another executive at a large burger chain, on the condition of anonymity, said the issue is seasonal and is periodically faced by food services companies between the July to August period. The chain continues to serve tomatoes in its burgers.

“Generally, during monsoon, the quality of tomatoes declines, but all fast food chains have to follow global standards. Normally, we all block tomato prices in advance. So, it’s not a price issue but a quality-related issue. As long as the quality of the tomato is as per global standards, we will sell," he said.

“The day we feel that the quality is not as per global standards, we will also stop putting tomatoes in our food," the executive said.

Meanwhile, a small number of McDonald’s outlets in west and south India have temporarily stopped serving tomatoes. “There are currently no serious tomato-related issues at McDonald’s India (west and east). During the monsoon season, fruit flies are a common annoyance. Every day, fresh tomatoes arrive at our stores. If a flaw is found in any batch, it is discarded. Only 10-15% of our stores had to stop serving tomatoes temporarily, but they still make use of any good supply they receive. This is a seasonal problem that the restaurant and food industry faces every monsoon," said a spokesperson at Westlife Foodworld Ltd, which operates McDonald’s restaurants in West and South India as a master franchisee.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Suneera Tandon
Suneera Tandon is a New Delhi based reporter covering consumer goods for Mint. Suneera reports on fast moving consumer goods makers, retailers as well as other consumer-facing businesses such as restaurants and malls. She is deeply interested in what consumers across urban and rural India buy, wear and eat. Suneera holds a masters degree in English Literature from the University of Delhi.
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Published: 07 Jul 2023, 11:21 PM IST
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