Japan may need an emergency potato airlift to feed its french fry hunger

A supply crunch is forcing restaurant operators in Japan to consider drastic measures to ensure that their potato supplies can withstand the titanic Japanese demand for french fries.

Gusto, one of the country’s largest national food chains, has already made preparations to fly in 200 tons (181 tonnes) of fries, while McDonald’s has been having supply issues for months, according to the Kyodo news agency.

Japan’s love for french fries—know as furaido potato—is legendary. A McDonald’s promotion in 2012 cause widespread chaos as teenagers held “potato parties,” ordering dozens of portions and dumping them onto commandeered tables for an orgy of fried food consumption.

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Japanese potato consumption (Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries / USDA)

Despite Japan’s somewhat lively relationship with the french fry, demand is relatively stable. The average Japanese citizen consumes about 15 kg (33 lb) of potatoes per year, which is roughly in the middle of the pack globally.

The squeeze on supply from the US has highlighted the recent decline in domestic production over the past 30 years, which has led to Japan importing more potatoes from the United States. The nation recently became the top potato export destination for US farmers.

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Japan potato supply (Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries / USDA)

Last year, McDonald’s in Japan again came up with a special french fry deal: the ‘Mega Potato’ was the chain’s most calorific offering to date, and the largest single serving of fries it has ever put on its menu.

But if the supply crunch isn’t resolved soon, an emergency airlift may be the only thing standing between millions of Japanese french fry fanatics and despair.

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