Restaurants are limiting order sizes and wholesalers are rationing cases.
It’s hard to imagine a food item that is more of a staple in the American diet than the potato.
Unfortunately, I have to add potatoes to the list of items experiencing shortage issues.
If you haven’t heard about it already or noticed fewer and fewer potatoes in your grocery store’s produce section, you will soon.
So, what’s the problem? The weather. Not this year’s weather, mind you. It’s the weather from over a year ago that’s to blame.
“I’m not sure if you remember last June, but we had some just unbelievably hot temperatures here in Idaho. It did a number on our potato crop,” said Jamey Higham, president and CEO of the Idaho Potato Commission. “And so, our yields were significantly down last year.”
Now, keep that in mind when you learn that a previous year’s potato crop cycle is supposed to last through the following August. And before the 2022 harvest comes into the pipeline (it’s just now beginning), consumers are facing the shortage from last year’s crop.
”There is not a gap. There are just less potatoes being shipped right now than there normally are this time of year because of the shorter supply that we started the season with,” said Higham.
The effects are being felt across the country. One restaurant in Michigan is no longer offering large orders of fries.
Hamburger Mikey in Muskegon has had to take another look at their award-winning French fries. For the time being, they’ve taken away the large portion, and are now just offering a half pound, which feeds one to three people.
The beloved burger joint gets their potatoes in 50 pound boxes from two distributors out of Idaho, totaling up to 800 pounds of potatoes every week.
“Potatoes are a huge portion of our sales,” said Tim Taylor, the Managing Partner for Hamburger Mikey. “Since 2016 we’ve used 240,000 pounds of potatoes.”
The shortage in Idaho is causing higher prices for Hamburger Mikey by up to 50%.
Fry prices also did have to go up a just a little bit at the popular burger joint, but Taylor said not by much.
“We have families that come in that maybe can’t afford a lot, and they do need those potatoes for their family, and we still want to be able to offer that,” he said.
The national shortage has prompted massive price spikes and rationing among some wholesalers. New York has limits on how many potatoes people can buy at once.
Spud sparseness became evident to purveyors shopping the Hunts Point produce market in the Bronx in the wee hours of Monday morning. By Wednesday, restaurateurs hitting up Restaurant Depot in the West Plainfield, N.J. store faced advisements on limits.
One note to potential hoarders read, “Due to extreme supply shortages of product we are temporarily limiting purchases to a 3 case limit.”
Christopher Maloney of Paratrooper Produce in Tottenville gave chefs a heads up on the issue last week so as to plan accordingly with specials. By early Monday morning, Maloney had scoured the New York Terminal Market in the Bronx for product and turned up nothing — not even specimens known as “Number 2s.” That term applies to ungraded potatoes packed in varying sizes — large and small packed together — typically cooked into hash browns.
“I spent hours looking for potatoes, negotiating on all sizes and all counts. Now a 90-count potato is almost $60 delivered. It should be $20 to $25 max,” said the fruit and veggie monger.
It’s good that I had my fill of potatoes in Europe and am on a diet. However, this is a troubling development for families who often rely on potatoes as a staple of their meals.DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.