SAPPORO – Hokkaido’s potato farmers haven’t recovered from last summer’s typhoons, which means consumers will have to wait until at least fall before the usual range of potato chip products returns to store shelves.
The farm ministry expects the chip shortage to last until the island prefecture’s next harvests get underway in September. About 80 percent of Japan’s potatoes are grown in Hokkaido.
An unprecedented four typhoons lashed northern Japan last August. The rain and flooding caused severe agricultural damage that caused potato production to drop 10 percent year on year to 1.72 million tons in 2016.
While the region’s harvests for fresh potatoes have recovered, output for processed products like chips is still falling short of demand, forcing major potato chip maker Calbee Inc. and its peers to suspend some flavors and varieties.
Potatoes used in processed foods account for roughly 30 percent of all production in Hokkaido.
An agriculture ministry official said snack producers prefer domestic crops due in part to the complexity of exterminating harmful insects linked to imported potatoes. To prevent the spread of parasites and diseases, Japan only allows potato imports from the United States.