Supply Chain Crisis Forces McDonald’s Japan to Ration French Fries

TOKYO, JAPAN - JANUARY 25: McDonald's Japan Swing Manager Miwa Suzuki prepares french fries to be used for McChoco Potato on January 25, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan. The McChoco Potato, McDonald's Japan's special winter menu, french fries covered in chocolate and white chocolate sauces will be available in McDonald's restaurants …
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A shortage of potato imports from North America will force McDonald’s Japan to ration french fries at nearly 300 locations nationwide from December 25 to December 30, the company announced Tuesday.

“Due to large-scale flooding near the Port of Vancouver … and the global supply chain crunch caused by the coronavirus pandemic, there are delays in the supply of potatoes,” McDonald’s Japan said in a statement issued on December 21.

The U.S.-based fast-food restaurant company has directed 299 locations across Japan to sell only “small-sized” french fries during the one-week ration period in an effort to preserve its remaining potato stock.

McDonald’s Japan is proactively securing its potato supplies through alternative means, including “shipping via air freight,” according to the financial news website Business Insider.

The company said it plans to “put medium- and large-size fries back on the menu by 10:30 a.m. on December 31,” adding its procurement issue will not affect the restaurant’s “hash brown offerings.”

Storms hammered Canada’s British Columbia province in mid-November, causing floods that inundated or damaged roads and rail lines into Vancouver, the province’s main seaport. The natural disaster effectively cut Vancouver off from the rest of the province for weeks. The development has had lasting effects on the city’s port, which is North America’s third-largest trade hub.

“Ever since [the November floods], the two major freight railways — Canadian National and Canadian Pacific — that carry about two-thirds of the cargo that’s transported by land to the Port of Vancouver have fixed the lines and are working to keep them open,” Bloomberg reported on December 7.

“They’re running again, albeit slowly,” the news site acknowledged.

Japan was the number one overseas market for U.S. potatoes in 2020, according to a May 2021 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“In 2020, the United States exported over $342 million of potatoes and potato products to Japan,” according to the U.S. government agency.

“Japan is a major importer of cooked and prepared frozen potatoes,” the report noted, adding, “U.S. potato products accounted for nearly 70 percent of Japan’s total potato product imports.”

McDonald’s Japan previously dealt with a potato shortage in December 2014, when it was also forced to sell only “small-sized” french fries to customers. The restrictions came in response to a U.S. labor dispute at the time, which caused shipping delays that affected potato imports.

“The fast-food giant had to import over 1,000 tonnes of frozen fries using air freight at the time to deal with the emergency,” Business Insider recalled on Tuesday.

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