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No More Meat and Potatoes? Supply Down and Prices Up – Lesson

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(Photo by Yamaguchi Haruyoshi/Corbis via Getty Images)

Inflation and supply chain problems are affecting common food items.

A new crinkle has been added to global supply chain problems: a potato shortage. It has not been a spud-tacular 12 months in the world economy, with prices rising and many products missing from store shelves. Meat is another product that has stirred up trouble, with prices going way up.

Would You Like Fries With That?

Japan is experiencing a drama with McDonald’s French fries. The fast-food chain has been forced to ration its fries in the east-Asian country. A shortage has been caused because a blend of issues is impacting the worldwide potato market, including COVID-19, a workers’ dispute, and flooding in Western Canada.

“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, adding that it would stop selling large- and medium-sized fries.

Customers can still order fries but in only small-sized portions. McDonald’s Japan is now importing 1,000 tons of frozen fries by air. Does this mean other businesses that sell potatoes are having the same issues?

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Potato harvesting in Canada (Photo by Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Kentucky Fried Chicken locations across Kenya cut French fries from the menu, blaming transport delays. Instead, customers can order other side-dishes on the menu, such as coleslaw and ugali (a porridge made with cornmeal).

Keeping Your Eyes Peeled for an Answer

Supply problems can happen with or without a pandemic. From worker disruptions to bad weather conditions, many factors could impact the supply of potatoes and other foods.

For example, in South Africa, potato farmers warned that a terrible frost and excessive rainfall recently caused small potato yields. In another instance, Canada has increased potato farming in the last year, but flooding led to delays sending the crop overseas. A fungus that causes potato warts has also caused problems for Canadian farmers.

And in the U.S., farmers had to destroy millions of potatoes last year as people were buying less of the tubers during the pandemic.

Trying to Make Ends Meat

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President Biden has a virtual meeting with independent farmers (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

Potatoes aren’t the only thing being affected by problems in the economy. The cost of meat has been going up in U.S. stores, from beef to pork chops to hot dogs. What’s going on?

Some have blamed the large companies that process most U.S. meat, claiming they are trying to take advantage of people. According to the White House, prices are up because of “the greed of meat conglomerates.”

President Biden recently met with small farmers and ranchers. He announced he will invest $1 billion to help these independent farmers compete with the larger companies. According to the president, this should help to lower prices.

Will the president’s solution work? And are large companies to blame?

Some experts have suggested that there are other reasons meat prices have risen, such as:

  • A shortage of workers
  • Companies offering higher wages to attract more workers
  • Factories being slowed down due to new COVID rules
  • Problems with transport
  • Higher customer demand for meat, but a low supply

The Wurst of Times

Meat and potatoes aren’t the only items struggling in today’s market. The cost of many food items has gone up. Here is a list of common items consumed in homes across America, and how much the cost has climbed:

  • Apples: +7.4%
  • Bread: +4%
  • Milk: +4.6%
  • Tomatoes: +3%

When the cost of products rises, it’s called “inflation.” Inflation and product shortages have been big problems coming out of the COVID pandemic. From gasoline and electricity to furniture, household cleaning products, and women’s dresses, life is getting more expensive.