The crisp, fresh lettuce in your favourite McD (McDonald’s) burger could be from the Blue Mountains of South India.

Ooty Farms and Orchards, now known as Green Earth Fresh Produce, joined the McDonald’s family in 1996. Since then, it has become one of the three suppliers of iceberg lettuce to McDonald’s India. Starting with 100 tonnes for only six months in a year, the supply from the Nilgiris has increased to nearly 1,250 tonnes a year now.

According to C. Magesh Kumar, Director of Green Earth, the company has nearly 1,300 tonnes of lettuce cultivated by about 400 farmers on about 100 acres, primarily in the Nilgiris, and 90 per cent of it is supplied to McDonald’s.

While three acres of it are under demonstration farm, the rest are under contract farming. McDonald’s has 270 outlets in the country, and the demand for lettuce has grown 25 per cent year-on-year. “It may be higher in two years,” he said. The total annual turnover from the supply is approximately Rs. 5 crore. The main advantage for the farmers is consistent purchase of the produce, he added. “We started with 10 acres in four different areas, and had to prove that the lettuce grown in the Nilgiris could meet the standards of McDonald’s.

It is a 55-day crop and earlier we used to be only a summer supplier (April to October). Now, we supply throughout the year. We keep shifting areas. We now grow in Mysore and Dhimbam, too,” Mr. Kumar said.

According to McDonald’s, the company has in place stringent standards of quality and freshness that suppliers have to meet. They are equipped with information on the particular variety required (iceberg lettuce), and given data on how and when to harvest the produce.

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