Sat, Apr 15, 2017 - Page 11 News List

Potato shortage starts chip panic

Bloomberg

Demand for potato chips has surged in Japan this week, with products on offer for six times their retail price online after Japanese snack company Calbee Inc halted the sale of some of its most popular chip brands.

Calbee’s pizza-flavored chips were yesterday selling for about ¥1,250 (US$12) on Yahoo Japan Corp’s auction Web site. One bag usually sells for less than ¥200.

The crunch came after Calbee on Monday warned that it would temporarily halt the sale of 15 types of potato chips due to a bad crop in Hokkaido, a key potato-producing region. The northern island was hit by a record number of typhoons last year.

Calbee has a 73 percent market share of potato chips in Japan.

‘POTATO CRISIS’

While the focus has been on potato chips following Calbee’s announcement, the shortage might spread to fast-food chains and restaurants that rely on spuds for their dishes, in what appears to be shaping up to be the nation’s “Potato Crisis,” the Nikkei newspaper reported.

“We’re doing everything we can to resume sales again,” Tokyo-based Calbee spokeswoman Rie Makuuchi said.

The company would consider using more imported potatoes from the US and ask potato farmers in the southern island of Kyushu to harvest their crop earlier than scheduled, she said.

She also cited regulatory hurdles, which limit the amount of imported potatoes that can be used in products, as partly responsible for the shortage.

NO END IN SIGHT

Smaller potato chip rival Koike-ya Inc has also halted the sale of nine snack products. The company only uses domestic potatoes and therefore will not rely on imports, company spokesman Kazuya Obata said.

Both Koike-ya and Calbee said they are not sure when sales would resume.

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