French Fry Shortage?! It’s OK, Don’t Freak Out

Weather conditions have damaged some potato crops, but your fast-food side order is probably safe.

What do you do when you hear there may be a French-fry shortage? First, freak out!

Fry shortage! Fry shortage! OMG, there’s going to be a fry shortage?!

Second, relax. Experts say it’s all going to be OK.

But first things first. Apparently there’s been a rush to buy and ship potatoes to be processed into French fries across North America following a crop-damaging spell of cool, wet weather in potato-growing regions of the United States and Canada, beginning in October.

While potato farmers in some areas were able to rescue frost-damaged crops and store them, others were not, Bloomberg reports. At the same time, the business news site notes, demand for fries has been on the rise, and supply, following the damage, may not be able to keep pace, driving prices up.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts domestic output will drop 6.1% this year to the lowest since 2010, the agency said in a Nov. 8 report. In Idaho, the top producer, output is forecast to fall 5.5%,” Bloomberg reported, in a story that was echoed elsewhere and sparked a bit of a fry panic. “Part of the problem for processors is the crop damage means potatoes are coming in smaller. French-fry makers usually favor longer spuds.”

Subsequent reports, however, have been more reassuring.

“The French Fries Are Doing Just Fine,” a New York Times headline declared. Although it’s true that this year’s potato harvests in the U.S. and Canada have been “weaker” than usual, experts told the paper fast-food fries are not in danger; fry purveyors will find a way to get the potatoes they need.

“Don’t panic about the French fries,” Frank Muir, the president of the Idaho Potato Commission, told the Times. “You can still go out and order them like you normally do.”

“Our French fry supply is safe for now,” Popular Science agreed, soothingly, although it added, ominously, “the future is uncertain.”

“Potatoes are really resilient,” University of Minnesota horticulturist Laura Shannon told PopSci. “They’re not like bananas or oranges, which we’re worried about keeping around as a plant we’re going to eat. We’re going to keep eating potatoes.”

So for now, at least, the answer to “Do you want fries with that?” can continue to be a hungrily resounding “Yes!”

Photo: iStock

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