US, Canada could face shortage of french fries due to poor potato crop

Potential french fry shortage in US, Canada due to poor potato crop

Hold the fries? Unthinkable, but possible.

The United States and Canada could face a shortage of french fries because of a poor potato crop caused by cold and wet weather, Bloomberg reported Monday.

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Cooler weather intruded on the growing regions in October, covering the spuds with frost, the news outlet reported. Farmers in Idaho and Alberta were able to salvage some crops and store them, but growers in North Dakota, Minnesota and Manitoba were not as fortunate, according to Bloomberg. The cooler weather forced some farmers to abandon some supplies in fields, the news outlet reported.

The decrease in production, coupled with an increase of fry-processing capacity in Canada, has boosted demand and could lead to tight supplies, Bloomberg reported. That could lead to higher prices across North America, particularly if the United States will not be able to export as many potatoes as in previous years.

"French fry demand has just been outstanding lately, and so supplies can't meet the demand," Travis Blacker, industry-relations director with the Idaho Potato Commission, told Bloomberg in a telephone interview.

According to the United Potato Growers of Canada, about 12,000 acres in Manitoba -- about 18% of the province's planted area -- were not harvested. About 6.5% of Alberta's potato crop was damaged by frost, Bloomberg reported.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts domestic output will drop 6.1% this year, its lowest among since 2010, the agency said in a Nov. 8 report. Idaho, the nation's top producer of potatoes, is forecast to experience a 5.5% drop, Bloomberg reported.

Still, potato growers are optimistic.

"It's a manageable situation," Kevin MacIsaac, general manager of the United Potato Growers of Canada, said in a phone interview. "Potatoes are going to have to move from one channel to another that they sometimes don't move in a normal year."