Potential French Fry Shortages Due to Cold Weather

Sue Byamba
By Sue Byamba
December 3, 2019US News
Potential French Fry Shortages Due to Cold Weather
A cook prepares french fries from a fryer in the kitchen at Bolt Burgers in Washington on Feb. 25, 2014. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

October’s wet and cold weather has damaged potato crops in key producers in the United States and Canada, causing a potential french fry shortage, Bloomberg reported.

While some farmers in Idaho and Alberta were able to store damaged crops to meet demands, farmers in Manitoba, North Dakota, and Minnesota had to abandon some of their supplies.

Part of the problem for processors is that damaged crops mean smaller potatoes but french fry makers prefer longer spuds.

Leading potato producing provinces in Canada are Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, and Alberta.

In the United States, Idaho is the largest potato producing state, followed by Washington and Wisconsin, according to Statistica. North Dakota ranks fifth and Minnesota ranks seventh among the leading potato producers in the country.

The United Potato Growers of Canada estimates that about 18 percent of Manitoba’s planted area has been abandoned, and about 6.5 percent of Alberta’s potatoes would be frost damaged. Reportedly, the government will provide estimates for Canada’s crop on Dec. 6.

Similarly, in the United States the domestic output is expected to drop by 6.1 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In Idaho, the output is estimated to fall by 5.5 percent. This would be the lowest drop in potato crops since 2010, Bloomberg reported.

Canada is also expected to have higher demand for potatoes due to an increase in fry-processing capacity, which would increase potato prices across North America, Stephen Nicholson, a senior grains and oilseeds analyst at Rabobank, told Bloomberg. He said there could also be a rise in price internationally because the United States won’t be able to export as much.

“French fry demand has just been outstanding lately, and so supplies can’t meet the demand,” Travis Blacker, industry relations director with the Idaho Potato Commission, told the news outlet.

Some farmers in Canada have already tackled the possible potato shortage by opening a new processing plant.

Cavendish Farms opened a new plant in Lethbridge, Alberta. Mary Keith, a representative of the company, told Bloomberg that the company is not expecting any shortages thanks to a better harvest on the East Coast.

“It’s a manageable situation,” Kevin MacIsaac, general manager of the United Potato Growers of Canada, told Bloomberg in a phone interview. “Potatoes are going to have to move from one channel to another that they sometimes don’t move in a normal year.”

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