Belgians urged to eat more 'frites' to deplete potato mountain

Belgium’s potato growers are asking their countrymen to step up to the plate and eat frites twice a week to lessen a 750,000 tonne potato surplus that has built up because of the Corona-virus.

‘Frites’, a kind of chip that is fried twice, are a national dish in Belgium, where they are regularly paired with mayonnaise and mussels. But potato farmers are hard hit by the country’s lockdown measures, which were imposed in mid-March and closed restaurants.

“Let us all eat French fries twice instead of once a week,” Romain Cools, secretary general of Belgapom, the trade association for potato growers, said.  Even though the country’s iconic frites shacks were given special dispensation to stay open, many shut because of the pandemic. Those that stayed open have seen customer levels drop.  The damage was compounded by the cancellation of Belgium’s many music festivals, where frites are eaten in huge quantities. 

Belgium is one of the largest exporters of frozen fries in the world, exporting 2.3 million tonnes every year.  According to Cools, the freezers were full and that the potatoes risked going to waste. He said a campaign with an anti-food waste organisation and supermarkets would soon be launched to ask Belgians to eat more chips at home, rather than at the traditional fritkot.

Even Belgians cannot be expected to munch through three quarter of a million tonnes of tatties, Cools admitted. “We are also working on sales to Central European countries that want to make starch from it, and it is also used to make animal feed and even electricity,” he said.

According to, Belgapom is also sending 25 tonnes of potatoes to food banks every week until the end of May and possibly longer.

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