A North American french fry shortage could be on the horizon
TORONTO -- It’s a french fry lover’s worst nightmare: a potato shortage that could hit their wallet and their plate.
Now, it looks like this nightmare could become a reality.
Some potato producers in North America are reporting a cold and wet fall that has negatively impacted crop yields among farmers. This combined with an increased demand for the vegetable has left those in the industry with a tight supply.
“Processors are desperately trying to find products in order to offer us the chips and french fries we all love, but apparently harvest has been tough, snow came in early and potatoes are a vulnerable crop,” Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Foods Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, told CTV News Channel on Monday.
As of early November, the top potato farmers in the United States were projecting a 6.1 per cent decline in total crops from a year ago, making it one of the lowest crop yields on record. Oregon is expected to be the most hard-hit area, with potato production falling 16 per cent from 2018.
According to Bloomberg News, 18 per cent of Manitoba’s harvest was left in the ground due to poor weather. This equals the amount abandoned across Canada in 2018.
Additionally, about 6.5 per cent of crops in Alberta were damaged by frost. A more detailed breakdown of the Canadian potato crops is expected on Dec. 6.
French fries are at a particular risk, Bloomberg adds, as the yield thus far has brought in much smaller potatoes and french-fry companies prefer bigger potatoes for production.
It remains to be seen how much of an impact a possible potato shortage will have on consumers’ wallets, but Charlebois notes prices are already climbing.
“One thing that people don’t know is that prices have actually gone up in the past 12 months,” he said. “Potatoes are… 20 per cent more expensive than a year ago and frozen fries up 17 per cent from a year ago.”
Charlebois also said it’s possible Canadians could be served a smaller portion of fries for the same price as a way of dealing with the shortage.
“It’s called ‘shrinkflation,’” he said. “It’s a phenomenon we don’t necessarily see all that often, but it does happen when input costs increase.”