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Expensive fries are a sensitive issue

"Our Belgian fries are heading for disaster: after the failed harvest of early potatoes, the main harvest in September is now also under threat”. Reported a recent article in a Belgian newspaper. The article talks about the rising price and the smaller size of fries. It seems that every few years or so, the same headers find their way to the public. Why is that?



Below is a list of recent headlines announcing the dire state of the Belgian French fry industry. 

  • 2013: Belgian fries smaller and more expensive due to limited harvest
  • 2012: Lower potato chips may lead to higher prices
  • 2011: Belgian fries considerably more expensive
  • 2010: Fries are expensive
  • 2009: Potato chips more expensive
  • 2008: Research on price of a pack of fries
  • 2007: Packet chips 10 per cent more expensive
  • 2006: Fries expensive due poor harvest
  • 2005: Fries in cafeterias expensive due to poor harvest

As one can discern from this list, fries are serious business in Belgium. Fries, it seems, are regarded as somewhat of a basic right. And when prices go up, it’s front-page news. Recently prices seem to be ever increasing. Is the potato industry really that problematic? Not so, says expert Bernard Lefèvre, himself chairman of the Belgian union for fry enthusiasts. "Reports about rising prices in Belgium fries are like posts about the Loch Ness monster. Whether it exists or not, you keep hearing about it."

Crop failure after crop failure?
Meeuw de Bruijne, chairman of the Trade Commission with the VTA, the headlines should not be taken too seriously. "We are not moving from one crop failure to the next,” he says. "When potato supplies are smaller it may at times affect the price of fries. But the raw potato does not determine all the price levels.”
Lefèvre agrees. “The price of a bag of fries is only determined by the potato for about 10 per cent. The rest is the grower, the transport, the additives, the cleaning and packaging, you name it.”

So reports about increasing prices are false? “They are at least, exaggerated,” says De Bruijne. “If the industry manages to spread rumours of shortages, they are able to arrange better prices for themselves.”
Lefèvre adds: “Fries in Belgium are a highly symbolic product, and everything that can go wrong, is top news. Any increase in price or calibre is turned into a drama, especially when media have nothing else to report. I would be really surprised if prices actually went up dramatically next year. In the end, Belgians wouldn’t let it happen.”
 

 
 


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