Potato crop failure hits chip market hardHokkaido,Japan--Theres a full scale panic in Japan.
While supply and demand in the US has potato prices flat, store shelves in the chip section across Japan are empty.
The crunch came after Calbee Chips warned on Monday that it will 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, which has a market value of 507.9 billion yen and is 20 percent-owned by PepsiCo Inc., has a 73 percent market share of potato chips.
Calbee’s pizza-flavored chips were going for about 1,250 yen ($12) on Yahoo Japan Corp.’s auction website Friday. One bag usually sells for less than 200 yen. Photos of near-empty shelves at their local supermarkets were trending on Twitter.
Potato chips are a big deal in Japan, a country also known for its senbei rice crackers and Pocky sticks. Calbee’s potato-snack products were the most and second-most popular snacks in a TV Asahi poll of 10,000 people and 13 confectionery makers last year, and the subject of a primetime show that lasted more than two hours.
While the focus has been on potato chips following Calbee’s announcement, the shortage may 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,” according to the Nikkei newspaper.
“We’re doing everything we can to resume sales again,” said Rie Makuuchi, a spokeswoman for Tokyo-based Calbee. She said the company will consider using more imported potatoes from the U.S. and ask potato farmers in the southern island of Kyushu to harvest their crop earlier than scheduled. She also cited regulatory hurdles, which limit the amount of imported potatoes that can be used in products, as partly responsible for the shortage.