French fry shortage? Poutine, ‘freedom fries’ at risk after poor potato harvest

Is Canada still Canada if we have to cut back on the poutine? And how will Americans show their patriotism without consuming a healthy serving of “freedom” fries over the holidays?

French fries may soon become harder to find due to a spud slump in North America, which threatens to chip away at Canada’s potato stockpile.

The shortage also threatens to hit consumers in the United States, according to data available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Cold weather and poor yields have produced a lighter-than-normal potato crop this year in North America’s potato hotbeds, according to a report from Bloomberg.

The inclement weather has resulted in more small potatoes overall, leaving fewer of the big potatoes necessary for making fries.

The Bloomberg report echos the latest information from the United Potato Growers of Canada (UPGC), who recently shared a dire analysis of the expected potato crop in the United States.

“Many areas of the United States were affected by adverse harvesting conditions this year,” the organization wrote in a report released last month. The report cites a 6.1 per cent drop in total U.S. potato production over the last year.

“This is one of the lowest crops on record.”

Bloomberg also reports that 18 per cent of Manitoba’s potato crop went unharvested this year, while 6.5 per cent of Alberta’s potatoes were lost to early frost.

However, a spokesperson for the UPGC says it’s still a manageable situation.

“Potatoes are going to have to move from one channel to another that they sometimes don’t move in a normal year,” Kevin MacIsaac, general manager of the UPGC, told Bloomberg.

Canada’s production estimates are due out on Friday, MacIsaac wrote in a recent blog post. However, farmers in central Canada faced many of the same issues as American potato producers, like Idaho, so the numbers could be similarly impacted.

Industry experts had been predicting this “spud slump” for over a year, after worrisome production numbers emerged at the end of 2018.

So what’s a spud-lover to do?

Perhaps it’s time to lay off the poutine and start roasting some baby potatoes, because there’ll be a whole lot more of them this winter.

You could also try eating a salad on the side — unless you’re ride-or-die for the greasy, crispy taste of a fry.

Of course, the shortage might create new opportunities to show your love over the holidays by showering friends and family with french fries at every meal.

In other words, there may be no greater gift this year than asking someone: “Do you want fries with that?”


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