A French Fry Shortage May Be Coming To Europe. Here's Why

It's been a tough year for the agriculture industry. This summer, Italy's Po River Valley dried up, jeopardizing such staple crops as durum wheat and olives for olive oil, as well as the culturally iconic Italian wine grapes. Texas drought is actively causing a shortage of water and grazing plants for cattle, driving up beef prices. Now, Europe is facing what The New York Times calls its "most severe" drought in history, and beloved french fries (aka chips, crisps, or frites) are caught in the crosshairs.

Due to drought and extreme heat, Europe is anticipating its "worst potato yield in years," according to Reuters. "Record temperatures and Europe's worst drought in 500 years" has effectively diminished this year's potato yield to a small crop of low-quality product. A misshapen crop, it says, means shorter french fries — some of which might not even be able to pass regulation standards for french fry length. Per the press release, Northwestern European countries France, Germany, and the Netherlands are the primary potato producers in the world. But, in France, the French producer group UNPT projects 2022's potato yield to clock in 20% lower than average. Worse, Christophe Vermeulen, Belgian industry group Belgapom's chief executive, says Belgium's potato crop could drop by 30%. 

Here's what it means for consumers.

Crisps are getting crispier

Geoffroy d'Evry, head of French producer group UNPT, says modern irrigation technology is equipped to handle drought — it's the heat that's the issue. "Whereas water stress we can handle, with heat stress there's nothing we can do," d'Evry explains, via Reuters. "We've had hot spells before, but in terms of temperature peaks and their duration, we've never seen that." Drought hasn't been the only recent enemy to potatoes, either. Last year, a massive flood knocked out acres of U.K. potato fields, per Yahoo! News

Other markets are feeling the fallout — and it's happened before. The U.S. is currently facing a tomato shortage after drought hit California tomato crops. Like potatoes, the fallout is affecting other tomato-based products. (We're looking at you, ketchup.) Currently, Michigan restaurant Hamburger Mikey — which is famous for its massive french fry baskets — has dramatically reduced its legendary portion sizes (via Legal Insurrection). Earlier this year, in May, U.K. fish and chip shops faced threatening product shortages due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict — the industry sourced almost 40% of its cod and haddock and 50% of its cooking oil from the war-locked countries, via Sky News

Now, it looks like the chips are next. But, some farmers are still remaining optimistic. September, they say, is already projected to cool things down some, and the hopeful temperature drop and increased rainfall could be enough to turn things around for the scant potato crop.