Tons of French fries and potato flakes: first factory in Central Asia for processing potato (video)

Tons of French fries and potato flakes: first factory in Central Asia for processing potato (video)

International Potato Day, held in Uzbekistan for the first time, ended with the grand opening of the first and so far the only potato processing factory in Central Asian region. The factory produces tons of French fries and potato flakes from the best potatoes grown in the domestic fields daily. NUZ.UZ correspondent tells about potato growing in Uzbekistan, equipment and technologies of production, import and export of potatoes.

International potato day that was held in Tashkent for the first time took place on March 19, 2019. The event brought together representatives of the Association of potato producers that was established a year ago, and suppliers of agricultural equipment and fertilizers, scientists, agronomists and farmers. In one of the pavilions there was an exhibition of domestic potato growing, where more than ten varieties of potatoes cultivated in Uzbekistan were presented. Most of the varieties, according to experts, has been brought and adapted to local climatic conditions from the Netherlands. Every year about 30 – 40 new varieties of potatoes are tested in the Republic, not all take root. In addition, the testing process takes up to 4 years.

"Previously, potatoes were mainly grown by farms in relatively small quantities. But with yearly population growth, the consumption of potatoes has increased. Uzbekistan was forced to import this vegetable type from other countries. There is a need to increase domestic potato production. To do this, the industry had to introduce modern technologies of cultivation, mechanize irrigation and harvesting. For this purpose, the experience of foreign countries was studied, since it was not so easy to grow potatoes in our hot climatic conditions. Basically, we used the technology of European countries, as you know, the Netherlands is the leader in this industry. We borrowed irrigation technologies from America and Israel. Innovative agricultural machinery was purchased from German companies – Grimme and Amazone. This lead to results. Today, the process from planting to harvesting potatoes is mechanized by 90%. The irrigation system is fully automatized. People are not involved in the process, except the monitoring the system," - said project Manager of the company "Agrover" Kosimjon Zukhriddinov.

Today, the company "Agrover" grows its potatoes in the fields near Tashkent and Surhandarya region. In Tashkent region potato plantations cover approximately 1,800 hectares. It is the territory of Chirchik, Yangiyul, Zangiata. In the Bostanlik district, where the climate is milder, there are seed fields. Annually Tashkent region produces three potato plantings – taking place in  early spring, spring and autumn. In Surhandarya region, on the other hand, four potato plantings take place on the 800 ha of land. In addition to the three main, due to warmer weather, potatoes are planted in January. Representatives of the company said that the early potatoes are even exported to the cities of Russia.

Today, the producer cultivates around 10 varieties of potato. However, for the potato processing a special potato variety was chosen that perfectly suits the blanching and boiling as well as frying. The producers hide the details as a commercial secret intentionally. This potato variety is used to make tons of French fries and potato flakes every day in «Solanuz» factory, launched before Navruz celebration. Unique not only in the scale of the country but in the whole region, the production coplex is located in the suburbs of Tashkent in Sergeli district. Apart from potato processing factory and producing ready-made products, there is build a large storage area for storing fresh tubers. Rational storage and optimal temperature help keep the vegetable correctly, deterring its spoiling.  The factory is equipped with Holland equipment that helps to fully atomize processing.

"The commissioning of the potato processing factory will cover about 70 – 80% of the total market. Tashkent alone consumes about 500 tons of French fries every month. Our plant produces 2 tons of French fries per hour, 48 tons per day. Every month it is more than a thousand tons of finished products. So far, semi-finished products are supplied only to catering establishments, since the packaging is 25 kg. In may, our products will appear in a more compact package on supermarket shelves. As for the sale of fresh potatoes, before the construction of the factory, our brand could often be found in retail outlets. Now 80% of all potatoes grown by us will go for processing. This, of course, does not mean that "Agrover" potatoes will completely disappear from retail. No. With the expansion of production on the open ground, we plan to increase the supply of fresh potatoes to retail outlets," - said the Executive Director of the "Agrover" company Farhod Tohirov.

Of course, knowing that mashed potatoes are prepared from powder, many will have quite logical questions, whether it is or not a chemical substance or whether it is harmful, or how and what it is made from. According to the chief engineer of the "Solanuz" factory Doniyor Manapov, a product is made of nothing but potatoes. The manufacturer does not add any salt or spices, or flavor enhancers, or any other ingredients.

"The technology of preparing potato flakes for mashed potatoes is extremely simple. The potato is brought from a warehouse to go through the first process of sorting (where too small or curve selection will not pass), then it is washed and steam cleaned. Next, the potatoes are passed to mechanical cutting and blanching until they are fully cooked. Then comes the drying process – where all the moisture is vapored. After that, the "dried" potato enters the mill, where it turns into flakes. French fries are prepared according to another technology – after being washed, cleaned and sliced potatoes are fried until half cooked. Then the fried potatoes get into the shock freezing chamber, where the temperature is set at -35 degrees. Finished products – fries and flakes – are sent for packing and packaging," Doniyar Manapov said.

The processing is maximally automated. Just 15 people work in one shift. Workers monitor the equipment. Packers put the finished packaged product in boxes, which are then sent to the freezer for storage. Nothing else is done manually.

According to the technologist, the plant processes about 170 tons of potatoes per day. Approximately 50 tons of French fries are processed from 100 tons of potato. 13 tons of potato flakes are made out from 70 tons of potatoes. It is quite simple to work with semi-finished products for the consumer: it only takes 2-3 minutes to prepare fries in a frying pan or frying fat at a temperature of 180 degrees. Mashed potato is prepared by just adding water. Spices, butter, milk and other ingredients can be added to taste.

As the Chairman of the Association of potato producers Elyor Toshpulatov noted, the consumption of potatoes in the country per capita is about 65 kg per year according to statistics. The figures are impressive. At the same time, there were many problems for the development of potato growing in the country. The industry lacked technology, part of the irrigated land was not used effectively, it was not possible to store fresh potatoes everywhere. Now with the support of the Association of potato producers these issues have been solved.

"This year there will be three new modern storage facilities in Bostanlik district, Jizzakh and Namangan regions in Uzbekistan. In addition, potato-growing centres have been established in seven regions of the Republic. Our Association is working closely with research institutes and universities, we intend to promote the introduction of scientific achievements and the development of high-yielding varieties of potatoes, the effective use of irrigated land and attract modern resource-saving technologies", - said Elyor Toshpulatov.

The chairman of Association of potato producers also noted that all the steps taken are aimed to satisfy population needs in potato and providing stability of prices in the domestic market.

Evgeniya GRANDE,
author's photo
Video: Bobur Yigitaliev


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