Potato shortage may create french fry crisis

Fast food restaurants across the world are experiencing a shortage of french fries as the U.S. production of potatoes was devastated during the COVID shutdowns.

photo by By beats_ via Adobe license

Japan is the largest overseas market for U.S. potatoes, accounting for $342 million in exports, according to the US Department of Agriculture. The United States is the “sole foreign supplier of fresh chipping potatoes in Japan.”

Frozen potato products like french fries account for nearly two-thirds of those exports, more than $230 million in exports.

Japan is also home to more than 3,000 McDonald’s franchises, according to The Washington Post, and relies heavily on U.S. potato exports.

KFC locations in Kenya have also been affected by the shortage, with Kenyan locations running out of french fries, colloquially known as chips, because of shipping delays more than a month long.

“Ya’ll loved our chips a little too much, and we’ve run out. Sorry!” KFC Kenya tweeted on January 3. “Our team is working hard to resolve the issue.”

In the United States, Americans are dealing with their own share of shortages of dietary staples. New York City bagel shops have been dealing with a shortage of cream cheese, threatening the business of bagel shops across the city. The Daily Wire reported:

New York bagel shops go through thousands of pounds of cream cheese in the course of a few weeks, the Times reported. Most shops make their own cream cheese spreads, using unprocessed raw cream cheese as a base and adding their own ingredients and flavors. They cannot use store-bought cream cheese, and their customers would notice if they did, the store owners told the Times.

Phil Pizzano, a sales representative with wholesale food distributor Fischer Foods, said the problem runs up and down the supply chain. A shortage of manufacturing labor due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a trucker shortage because of vaccine mandates, and a shortage of packaging materials.

“It sounds kind of silly, talking about this like it’s some kind of huge crisis,” Pugliese said, but bagels and cream cheese are a “big deal” to his customers, even “sacred.” “I hate feeling like I’ve let people down,” he added.

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