America Is Facing a Major French Fry Shortage, and It Could Last All Winter
Few things ease the sting of a frigid winter night like a pile of French fries. But, in the wake of New England's first major snowstorm of the season, Americans might have to turn to other comfort foods—foods that aren't made from potatoes and crisped to perfection.
That's right: This winter, French fries could be on the outs.
Potato crops were damaged by wet, frigid conditions that struck in October, according to a new Bloomberg report. The most affected areas were in Idaho, in the United States, and in Manitoba and Alberta, in Canada. As of right now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts our potato output will fall 6.1% from last year. And up north, about 6.5% of Alberta's potatoes are currently unusable.
So, what does this mean for your side of fries? Simple: There are significantly fewer potatoes available for frying.
Some crops were rescued by farmers who dug up potatoes early on and saved them in storage. Others, though, were buried under intense snow and rain before any salvation was possible. Plus, most of the potatoes that did survive are on the smaller side. (We're not picky, but, according to Bloomberg, French fry producers favor longer potatoes.)
Another obstacle facing this season's fry production? Canadians have recently fallen in love with the American classic, and demand from our northern neighbor has, in recent years, sharply increased. This new demand, combined with the potato shortage, has fans of the fried staple worried.
However, experts are less concerned. According to Stephen Nicholson, a senior grains and oilseeds analyst at Rabobank, yes, prices could rise across North America. But, as Kevin MacIsaac, the general manager of the United Potato Growers of Canada, told Bloomberg, "It's a manageable situation."
So, while fries might put a bit more of a dent in your wallet this winter, indulging will not be impossible. CNN speculates that fries at fast food joints will likely stay at the same prices (thanks to long-standing contracts and locked-in menu prices), while local sit-down and casual restaurants—like bars, pubs, taverns, and steakhouses—could see prices tick up. Your local grocery's frozen and produce sections could also see a rise in price, too, in terms of potatoes and frozen potato items.
We'll know more details about how dire the situation could be on December 6th, when the government is set to issue estimates for the nation's crop.
In the meantime, though, make sure you get your reasonably-priced side of fries before it's too late.