Singapore’s running out of fries because there is a global potato shortage

The case of the missing spud

Dawson Tan
Written by
Dawson Tan
Food & Drink Writer
Photograph: Nik via Unsplash

The good ole french fry made from fresh potatoes are some of the world’s favourite snack for the young and old. On our regular spud hunts around town since the dawn of the new year, we stumbled upon signs of potato shortages when our favourite restaurants and cafes weren’t able to fulfil our starchy cravings – even though we were sometimes literally the first customers of the day. Well, we were baffled but remained fairly unbothered. Little did we know that something bigger was to come, something like a nationwide fry crisis.

Last Friday, when big fry player KFC announced that they’d be replacing their crispy fries with a brand new side of waffle hash and the option to upsize your french fries will not be available, we could almost feel the nation gasp. Safe to say, not all fries are born equal, we already had a hard time just thinking about the last time we successfully ordered tater tots. With the ongoing supply chain uncertainty, it surely looks as if the changes are here to stay for quite a bit and boy, did that cause quite the ruckus. If like us, you’re devoted to the spud, this shortage has bound to pique an interest into this momentary travesty. 

Stock Exchange Chart
Photograph: M. via Unsplash

In truth and retrospect, the global potato supply fluctuates from time to time, kinda like the commodities exchange. In fact, if we recall not long ago last year, the world witnessed a potato genocide in the US as farmers had to destroy millions of oversupplied potatoes due to the fall in demand from pandemic lockdowns. Yes, we #neverforget. Jokes aside, shortages typically occurs when a high fry demand from consumers is met with a lack of supply from an industry that is under the scrutiny of natural plagues, unpredictable weather and sometimes, labour disputes.

Potato Harvest
Photograph: Rob Mulder via Unsplash

But today’s crisis is a little more complex and a confluence of new and existing issues. For instance, the already-strained global supply chains are pinched by relentless waves of the Omicron variant in recent months. That causes labour shortages, congested ports, and their heightened port due diligence which inevitably translate to delays.

But we’re not alone in this. In Japan, McDonald's resigned to allocating fry quotas per store by restricting only small fries to each order without the option to upsize since the start of the year. Unfortunately, the Japanese will only have the floods in Port Vancouver to thank. In Kenya, KFC officially ran out of the golden fry on January 3, however, it launched a nifty swap campaign that allowed customers to enjoy an extra piece of fried chicken instead of just regular sides. We’re digging the generosity if you’d ask us. KFC Singapore, are you taking notes?

Whether you’re affected or not, this quantitative tightening of fries is definitely a phenomenon to remember. The next time you’re chowing down on fries, savour and honour it, for it may never return in the near future.

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