French Fry Shortage Looming?

December 22, 2019
French Fry Shortage Looming?

Unusually cold and wet weather this Fall has impacted the potato harvest.  Many Canadian and US growers will have a significantly reduced potato harvest this year.

Additionally, many of the potatoes being harvested are smaller in size.  French fry processors prefer larger potatoes.  The US Department of Agriculture is projecting a 6.1% reduction in potato harvest in the US.

Potato harvests in the Canadian Provinces of Manitoba and Alberta are especially hard hit.

Video Spotlight: Potato crop woes could lead to potential French fry shortage

This post is based on the KSL article, An Unusually Cold and Wet Potato Harvest Season May Lead to A French Fry Shortage in The US, by Harmeet Kaur, December 3, 2019, and the YouTube video, Potato crop woes could lead to potential French fry shortage , by ABC 10 News, December 3, 2019. Image source: Shutterstock / studiovin

Discussion Questions:

1. What is the potential impact of the potato shortage?

Guidance: The end result will probably be higher prices for potatoes.  Although the US and Canada produce large amounts of potatoes, they rank 5th and 13th in the world in potato production.  So, other sources of potatoes are available.  However, they will need to be shipped farther distances to reach the processing facilities—causing higher costs.

2. What can fast food restaurants do if there is a shortage of potatoes?

Guidance: There are several possible approaches.  Current suppliers will probably look at alternate supplies of potatoes, such as importing potatoes.  But, if they don’t find enough potatoes, fast food restaurants can switch suppliers.  Other techniques might include reducing the size of the servings, increasing prices to reduce demand, using lower quality potatoes, offering alternate products (e.g., sweet potato fries), or eliminating waste during production.

3. Why is the potato shortage problematic?

Guidance: Many supply chains offer a great deal of control.  However, the French fry supply chain’s supply is variable and is dependent upon the weather.  Fortunately, potatoes are grown in many locations throughout the world.  This reduces the possibility of a large shortage as poor weather is likely to be limited to a few regions.  However, the cost of transporting the potatoes to the customer will increase with longer shipping distances.  Another tactic to stabilize supply would be to store potatoes.


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