With Europe undergoing a major drought, potato yields across the region have been negatively affected. And the result — several companies are warning about French fries being shorter than usual in the coming months.
Countries like France, the UK, and Belgium currently have a shortage of potatoes because of the extremely dry summer. Even the potatoes that are harvested in such conditions turn out to be smaller in size, resulting in smaller French fries.
In a country like Belgium, which is known for its fondness for French fries, the prospect of shorter fries is met with shock. “Fries are essential. It is vital… It is part of our culture. It’s more than a product — it’s a symbol of Belgium,” USA Today quotes Bernard Lefevre, president of Belgium’s chip stand owners association.
Usually, fries in Belgium measure about three inches in length. In the current circumstances, fries are expected to be smaller by three centimeters or more. Germany and other countries will also have to adjust to smaller fries for now.
“The continuing dryness and heat mean the potato harvest in Germany and Europe will be considerably lower and poorer than last year… The result is that a significant tightening of raw material supplies and a reduction in quality is foreseen… The result could be supply problems for the popular potato-processing products, such as French fries,” Reuters quotes German Association of the Fruit, Vegetable, and Potato Processing Industry.
Drought in Europe
This year’s drought has done some serious damage to Europe’s agriculture sector. Some farmers in Germany are destroying their arid crops, Netherlands saw a very parched summer, and Sweden suffered one of the worst droughts in recent times. Conditions in other European nations like Poland, the Czech Republic, and Belarus is far worse. Countries like Lithuania and Latvia have even declared a state of emergency due to the severe drought conditions.
“This is really serious… Most of south-west Sweden hasn’t had rain since the first days of May. A very early harvest has started, but yields seem to be the lowest for 25 years — 50 percent lower, or more in some cases — and it is causing severe losses,” The Guardian quotes a cattle farmer from Sweden.
Several countries are formulating relief packages for farmers so that they do not end up financially broken because of the monetary loss from this year’s drought. And while many farmers are trying to somehow get through the current year’s drought, the forecast for potato supplies next year is also not encouraging.
“As far as we know, there will be sufficient seed potatoes for next coming crop. However, we can already foresee that at the beginning of the new season, stocks will be empty. So we can expect another tight year regarding availability and the recovery of the stocks,” Food Ingredients First quotes Patrick Geers, Marketing Associate for Emsland.
Research agencies from Europe are advocating for farmers to explore new crop varieties and types in the future, taking into account the possibility of a warmer climate. In addition, highly efficient water management practices have to be developed so that every drop of water is properly utilized and not wasted. This is essentially the only way for Europe to fight off the droughts of the future and keep its agricultural production stable.