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Japan's french fry shortage supersizes imports from China

Nikkei -- Jul 25
A monthslong shortage of imported U.S. french fries has driven Japanese restaurants to turn to China or even drop the item from their menus, in a case of supply chain risk taking a bite out of a consumer favorite.

Skylark Holdings, whose chains include Gusto, has gone from importing no french fries from China to sourcing 20%-30% of its supply from there at times.

Nationwide, french fry imports from China have surged since November. Japan imported 1,300 tons in April, 27 times the volume from a year earlier.

Chinese sources still represent only about 3% of all imported frozen french fries, but the shift shows how Japan's restaurant industry is searching for substitutes.

Some eateries have limited sales of french fries or stopped serving them altogether.

Family restaurant chain Royal Host replaced french fries on its side-order menu with penne au gratin this month, after a decision in February to stop serving fries as standalone orders. In May, KFC suspended sales of french fries at about 230 locations in Japan.

Japan's potato shortage entered the public eye in December when consumers complained on social media about McDonald's limiting sales of french fries to small sizes. McDonald's Japan went as far as to order an emergency airlift of frozen fries. ...continue reading

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