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An unusually cold and wet potato harvest season may lead to a French fry shortage in the US

Winter is coming — for our French fries.Unusually...

Posted: Dec 4, 2019 9:14 AM

Winter is coming — for our French fries.

Unusually cold and wet weather during the potato harvest season has left some growers in the US and Canada unable to harvest a significant portion of their crop.

Now, processors across North America are rushing to find potatoes from additional sources to keep up with the increasing demand for fries, in news first reported by Bloomberg.

The US is the fifth largest producer of potatoes in the world, and the crop is grown in nearly every state. But this year, the amount of potatoes produced and harvested is down in some of the top-producing states, including Idaho, Oregon, and North Dakota.

Overall potato production in the US is forecast to fall about 6.1 percent from last year, according to a November report from the US Department of Agriculture. That's the lowest it's been since 2010.

In Idaho, which produces about a third of US potatoes, production is forecast to fall five percent from last year, USDA reported. About 308,000 acres were harvested, down about 7,000 from 2018.

In Canada, potato harvests in the western provinces of Manitoba and Alberta were particularly affected, according to Kevin MacIsaac, general manager for United Potato Growers of Canada.

For potato growers, that could mean significant losses, MacIsaac said. It could also mean that some growers might not be able to fulfill their contracts with processing companies.

Factories that supply potatoes to restaurants and grocery stores might have to rely on other sources or import them. And potatoes originally designated for other purposes, like chips or the bags of fresh potatoes you buy at the store, might instead be used to make French fries.

Despite cold weather affecting some of this year's crop, Frank Muir, president and CEO of the Idaho Potato Commission, said he's not too worried. By the time the frost hit in October, Idaho farmers had harvested about 85 percent of their crop. And those potatoes were of good quality.

"Even though the weather took a bit of a top off our crop, we still are harvesting probably in the neighborhood of 13 billion pounds of potatoes," Muir told CNN.

Fast food prices aren't likely to change

If all this has you devising a plan to stockpile fries or take to the streets to demand your right to crispy, golden-brown spuds, you can sit tight for now.

Experts say that prices at fast food restaurants like McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy's have been fixed for the year through contracts and are unlikely to change.

"[Fast food restaurants] look at that menu board as sacrosanct," Stephen Nicholson, a grains and oilseeds analyst at Rabo AgriFinance, told CNN. "They don't want to change that menu board unless they absolutely have to."

But though consumers might not see a difference on the fast food menu boards, Nicholson said prices for French fries could go up in other places, like local bars, casual dining chains and the produce and frozen aisles at grocery stores.

Though prices might go up a little, those in the industry say they don't think people will notice a difference.

"The consumer will see French fries," MacIsaac said. "It's just the behind the scenes, those raw potatoes may have moved in different areas than perhaps they would in areas where there's lots of supplies."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 154411

Reported Deaths: 3836
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10332104
Hinds10190199
Harrison7244111
Jackson6521124
Rankin5805103
Lee523695
Madison4964107
Forrest388286
Jones367788
Lauderdale3575147
Lafayette334952
Washington3241108
Lamar296650
Oktibbeha251362
Lowndes243864
Bolivar242984
Panola229653
Neshoba2241118
Marshall221250
Leflore207791
Monroe203978
Pontotoc202929
Lincoln194865
Sunflower192555
Warren178757
Tate177051
Union171026
Copiah167040
Pike164758
Yazoo158840
Scott157930
Itawamba156135
Alcorn154828
Pearl River154168
Coahoma151943
Simpson151953
Prentiss149531
Adams144451
Grenada142845
Leake139444
Holmes132361
Tippah128030
Covington127939
George126425
Winston124526
Hancock123640
Wayne120623
Marion118646
Attala117534
Tishomingo110842
Chickasaw109032
Newton108029
Tallahatchie97727
Clay93427
Clarke93053
Jasper84822
Stone80015
Calhoun78113
Walthall77229
Montgomery75825
Carroll74015
Lawrence73414
Smith72816
Noxubee72517
Yalobusha72328
Perry68126
Tunica62319
Greene61222
Claiborne58916
Jefferson Davis58817
Amite55814
Humphreys54719
Benton49918
Quitman4977
Webster46414
Kemper44718
Wilkinson40422
Jefferson36411
Franklin3535
Choctaw3507
Sharkey32317
Issaquena1204
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 249524

Reported Deaths: 3578
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson33064500
Mobile19951362
Madison13596148
Tuscaloosa13246154
Montgomery12435236
Shelby1061677
Baldwin889098
Lee781466
Morgan686150
Etowah643966
Calhoun6430121
Marshall635355
Houston537738
DeKalb492236
Cullman451542
Limestone433345
St. Clair432555
Lauderdale422354
Elmore412964
Walker3710111
Talladega359354
Jackson329823
Colbert329642
Blount299740
Autauga278042
Franklin256434
Coffee248315
Dale236254
Chilton227438
Dallas226832
Russell22383
Covington220434
Escambia198931
Tallapoosa184391
Chambers177950
Pike159914
Clarke159819
Marion143636
Winston135123
Lawrence131636
Pickens125718
Geneva12438
Marengo123124
Bibb119617
Barbour117811
Butler117842
Randolph104921
Cherokee103424
Hale97831
Fayette92516
Washington92219
Clay92024
Henry8756
Lowndes80229
Monroe79011
Cleburne77814
Macon74522
Crenshaw72030
Bullock70219
Perry6906
Lamar6898
Conecuh68814
Wilcox64218
Sumter58622
Greene42818
Choctaw42713
Coosa3544
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