The Global Potato Shortage

Do you like potatoes? Because the Journalism Club sure does love talking about them (if not consuming them)! Check out our members’ opinions regarding the global potato shortage that struck us in 2022.


In 2022 was when the global potato shortage hit. McDonald’s holding company in Japan said that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 and a flood that hit Vancouver port delayed an expected potato shipment from North-America. This caused a global potato shortage which affected the food supply chain. 

In Japan, around 2900 branches of McDonalds had to ration French fries to customers for the next month or so after the fast-food chain said it was limiting portions due to shipping problems. Global shipping operations continue to be severely affected by a mix of factors including COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, extreme weather and a rapid recovery in demand. 

As a result, McDonald only served S-sized portion of fries to ensure enough in inventory for customers to enjoy smooth supply of fries. Fast-food chains such as Yum’s brand KFC in Singapore said that it would temporarily swap fries to potato waffles as the sides. Some places even stopped selling Hash browns as a result of the shortage. Indonesia and Malaysia also stopped the sales of large portion fries for the same reasons. 

As I am not really a fan of French fries, I was not really affected by the shortage of potatoes in the emotional aspect. However some customers might feel upset that they did not receive the portion of French fries they want. However, I feel the world is doing their best trying to solve the shortage of potatoes and return back to their normal state.

After all, COVID-19 was a factor of this shortage, which we cannot really control. I also feel that this shortage can be and should be a learning point for the transportation industry and the global food chains that in the future there may be a global shortage of something that is high in demand, and when that happens, they should know what to do and take measures. For example, they could stock up on more resources so that if the shortage hits, they will have resources in their inventory to export to the different countries in the world. 


The coronavirus has struck the world hard. 

Recently, potato shipping chains have slowed down owing to excessive frost, flooding, a decreased labour force, and more. The pandemic has already dealt a big enough blow to the supply chain, but along with effects of climate change, this has dealt a second blow to supply chains worldwide, causing a worldwide potato shortage. 

Since most fast-food chains do not source potatoes themselves but instead buy frozen French fries, they have been experiencing a recent shortage. Canada had to stop exporting fries from Prince Edward Island due to a potato fungus that was discovered, while harsh frost and excessive rains have reduced South Africa’s exports of potatoes and frozen French fries too. 

To add another blow, global shipping companies have to endure increased customs checks at ports and decreased workers due to the coronavirus pandemic. This has delayed global shipping even more. 

The famous Idaho potatoes were affected too. Congestion at ports in the west coast of the U.S. and Canada have delayed things even more. 

Fast food chains have had to cut back on the number of potatoes bought. MacDonalds recently slashed the large fries off its menu, while KFC has tried to compensate its customers by replacing the famous fries with other items like soda. While in Kenya, locals have expressed their anger at KFC relying on imported, rather than local, potatoes. However, KFC said they could not easily switch to local potatoes due to global quality standards.  

In an attempt to compensate for all the inconveniences, MacDonalds has still allowed customers to order small fries and medium fries. In Japan however, MacDonalds has cut the fries down to the small size and customers will get a 50 yen (60 cents) discount on them. 

It seems like the global shortage may not resolve so soon. The farms were still recovering from the impact that the pandemic left on them when the shortage struck. As a result, US farmers had to destroy millions of potatoes after the lockdown and stay-at-home orders led to less people visiting restaurants resulting in a decline in demand. 

MacDonalds Japan said they had considered having potatoes flown in from other countries to catch up with the current demand until the Vancouver port situation was resolved, but January’s heavy snow, weather conditions, flooding, and container shortages delayed further shipments, resulting in MacDonalds sticking to its maximum of one small fries for another month or so, which ended on 7 February. 

In my opinion, I feel that this shortage would not have happened if not for people overconsuming French fries, among other things, like plastic. The container shortage showed that the world today is consuming far too much than what we can cope with now, putting enormous strain on the global shipping lines.  

We should cut down on overconsumption, take and buy only what we need, and stop striving for more and more. A more frugal life can lead to us having deeper appreciation for things, letting us appreciate them more.  

The global shortage is caused by us, humans, and not the fast-food chains or the shipping companies and farms. We should be taking steps not to overconsume so much and lessen demand, so that we can get back our favourite French fries! 

Cheng Jie

To many, French fries are a huge part of fast food. Most people like to get French fries along with their burgers and other fast food. Well, here’s some bad news. According to the news, there is a global shortage in potatoes. This has affected fast food companies around the world and not just Singapore. Even countries as far as Kenya and Japan have been affected. Apparently, the shortage is due to a myriad of reasons, such as supply chain disruptions caused by Omicron, the discovery of potato wart fungus in Canada, as well as extreme weather conditions in South Africa. 

Around the world, McDonald’s outlets have been affected. In Taiwan, hash browns ran out. In Malaysia and Indonesia, large-sized fries have become unavailable and in Japan, customers had to be limited to only small-sized French fries. As a fan of McDonald’s French fries, I truly hope that McDonald’s Singapore will not be adversely affected by these supply chain disruptions. My family and I go to McDonald’s about once every month or fortnight, so we hope that we will still be able to enjoy the fries when we patronize the fast food restaurant. So far, KFC outlets in Singapore have been affected and they have put up signs saying that meal bundles with French fries will change the fries to waffle hash.  

The United States is one of the top potato producers globally; however, due to the lockdowns, the US farmers had to destroy large amounts of potato crops in 2020, and the supply chain has not completely recovered yet. With the Covid-19 pandemic improving, the demand for French fries has surged and is getting closer to pre-covid times. With supply chain disruptions exacerbating the situation, fast food restaurants have scaled back on French fry orders or even run out of them. 

I personally feel that the problems faced by Japan could have been slightly minimized. According to online sources, the United States is the sole foreign supplier of fresh chipping potatoes in Japan. Japan could have actually tried to maximise local produce to reduce reliance on local exports or get exports from multiple countries. Although the crisis is inevitable, its impact can still be reduced and it would not have adversely affected the fast food chains in Japan. Meanwhile in Kenya, due to global quality assurance regulations have prevented them from switching to domestic potato produce.  

I hope that effort has been put in to ease the supply chain disruptions. Hopefully, weather conditions can improve and the next batch of potato crops will soon be ready so that the supply can successfully meet the demand and the situation will return to normal.   

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