Japan loves its potatoes. Since the country doesn’t grow enough on its own to supply Japanese French fry fans with all the spuds they can eat, the country regularly imports frozen French fries (along with a lesser amount of other potato products) from the U.S.
Here’s the best example: Japan loves its French fries so much that a 2012 McDonald’s promotion featuring bargain-priced large fries prompted “Potato Parties.” Yes, we’re serious.
The rules were simple: order astounding amounts of bargain French fries with friends, then proceed to eat them all. Somehow, we doubt that one little serving of ketchup was probably enough for that table.
Photo: DQNPlus Blog
Now, Japan Today reports that a chain of family restaurants called Gusto has made plans to airlift around 200 tons of French fries into Japan due to ongoing shipping labor disputes in several U.S.West Coast ports. Back in May, an International Longshore and Warehouse Union contract expired, according to KPBS. Since that time, contract negotiations between dock workers and West Coast shippers have been ongoing, but the 13,600 union members have continued to work under the expired contract.
Graph: USDA GAIN Report
According to USDA estimates, about 93 percent of the potatoes that Japan imports are in the form of French fries. Within that number, the U.S. supplies about 80 percent of those French fries.
Now, back to that labor dispute. Japan Today quotes Kyodo News as saying that McDonald’s Japan has been having French-fry-related struggles since mid-November. Meanwhile, a company called Royal Holdings, which owns several family-style restaurant chains, has a few months of fry stock on hand, but is closely monitoring the situation.
As we bite into any and every delicious French fry we consume this holiday season, we’ll definitely take a moment to feel for Japan’s French fry struggles. Are there more pressing issues in the world? Of course there are. But few things bring that sense of immediate joy to everyone’s face like a simple French fry, so the idea of someone being denied their French fries seems especially sad.
Here’s hoping that labor dispute ends favorably for all involved, and that everyone who wants French fries can have them.