Poor potato harvest eats into snack production in Japan

TOKYO • Fans of Japan's potato chips, beware: Your favourite snacks may become harder to find.

The country's worst potato harvest in at least 34 years has prompted major snack makers to halt production of several types of snacks.

Bad weather is the main reason behind the shortage.

Typhoons and flooding last August swamped Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido, which produces 80 per cent of Japan's potatoes, leading to the country's smallest harvest of spring-planted potatoes since 1983, when the agriculture ministry started keeping records.

Calbee, which imported about 15 per cent of its potatoes from the United States in 2015, boosted imports last year to try to meet the shortfall. But it was difficult to get a sustainable supply of potatoes, so it decided to temporarily halt production of 15 products and permanently stop 18 items.

Koikeya, which makes the popular Karamucho spicy potato snack, said it was temporarily suspending nine products and permanently ending seven snack items.

Both companies declined to comment on the possible impact of the decisions on their earnings.

Retail potato prices have also risen, climbing 8.6 per cent last year. They've been rising nearly 20 per cent every month since last October, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

In February, potato prices jumped 22.4 per cent on the year. In Tokyo, 1kg of potatoes cost 402 yen (S$5), up from 336 yen in the same month a year ago.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2017, with the headline 'Poor potato harvest eats into snack production in Japan'. Print Edition | Subscribe