Will Reduced Potato Crop in North America Lead to French Fry Shortage?

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Bloomberg News reported on December 2 that a french fry shortage could be looming in the United States and Canada.

“Potato processors are rushing to buy supplies and ship them across North America in order to keep french fries on the menu after cold, wet weather damaged crops of key producers in the US and Canada,” wrote Ashley Robinson. “Cool conditions started to hit growing regions in October, lashing potatoes with frost. Farmers in Alberta and Idaho were able to dig up some damaged crops for storage. But growers in Manitoba, North Dakota and Minnesota received snow and rain, forcing them to abandon some supplies in fields.”

The US Department of Agriculture estimates that domestic potato output will fall 6.1% this year, perhaps coming in at the lowest level since 2010. Growers in Idaho, the nation’s leading potato production state, are expecting a harvest shortfall 5.5%.

Travis Blacker of the Idaho Potato Commission was quoted as saying the supply of french fries won’t likely be able to meet demand, which has been “outstanding lately.”

However Kevin MacIsaac, general manager of the United Potato Growers of Canada, does not appear to be overly concerned. “It’s a manageable situation,” he said.

Idaho Potato Commission President and CEO Frank Muir voiced a positive note, commenting: “We’re headed into the Christmas period now, and we’re confident we can meet the consumer needs both in retail stores and in restaurants,” Muir says. “We’re not going to look up halfway through the year and find there are no french fries anymore. That’s not going to happen.”

He added that the expected yield in the US this year will amount to about 13 billion tubers, or down by approximately 1 billion compared with the harvest in 2018.