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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: 333180

Reported Deaths: 7502
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22901279
Hinds22780438
Harrison19569326
Rankin14851287
Jackson14342251
Madison10692227
Lee10437179
Jones8746169
Forrest8210157
Lauderdale7561243
Lowndes6790150
Lamar669688
Lafayette6459124
Washington5516139
Pearl River4915149
Bolivar4909134
Oktibbeha478498
Panola4723112
Marshall4654106
Warren4640127
Pontotoc440473
Monroe4255137
Union425379
Neshoba4182180
Lincoln4098115
Hancock405088
Leflore3565125
Pike3530112
Tate349588
Alcorn343974
Sunflower343093
Adams333387
Scott331775
Yazoo331173
Simpson314890
Copiah313867
Itawamba310180
Coahoma308785
Tippah298868
Prentiss292963
Covington282483
Marion279580
Leake278475
Wayne270743
Grenada266388
George261651
Newton256664
Tishomingo236869
Winston235584
Jasper226148
Attala220873
Chickasaw216360
Stone210237
Holmes195674
Clay192254
Clarke182080
Tallahatchie181742
Calhoun177532
Smith175935
Yalobusha169440
Walthall141548
Lawrence137726
Greene135734
Amite132843
Noxubee131635
Perry131038
Montgomery130944
Carroll124531
Webster117532
Jefferson Davis113334
Tunica111127
Benton104625
Claiborne104331
Kemper100729
Humphreys99133
Franklin85923
Quitman83519
Choctaw81319
Wilkinson74632
Jefferson69728
Sharkey51518
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 570667

Reported Deaths: 11483
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson834821584
Mobile45819855
Madison36785532
Tuscaloosa26757465
Shelby26612255
Montgomery25739624
Baldwin23810325
Lee16801181
Calhoun15130332
Morgan14941289
Etowah14662368
Marshall12806235
Houston11515292
Elmore10654217
St. Clair10521251
Limestone10472158
Cullman10257204
Lauderdale9991253
DeKalb9298191
Talladega8739187
Walker7594286
Autauga7419113
Jackson7269117
Blount7184139
Colbert6583142
Coffee6045131
Dale5326117
Russell465842
Chilton4645117
Covington4579125
Franklin444381
Tallapoosa4379157
Escambia420082
Chambers3852125
Dallas3688163
Clarke364462
Marion3380106
Pike324879
Lawrence3192101
Winston291072
Bibb280165
Geneva271583
Marengo258567
Barbour243461
Pickens239162
Butler236172
Hale231878
Fayette224564
Henry205145
Randolph194944
Cherokee193948
Monroe192141
Washington177139
Macon167552
Crenshaw164458
Clay162559
Cleburne159145
Lamar149538
Lowndes144354
Wilcox129231
Bullock125642
Conecuh118130
Coosa116029
Perry109928
Sumter108032
Greene97836
Choctaw63825
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