DA: local potato variety in surplus, global supply tallies shortage

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: A vendor selling tomatoes, potatoes and other goods waits for customers in Manila market on April 25, 2008. (Photo: ROMEO GACAD/AFP via Getty Images)
FILE PHOTO: A vendor selling tomatoes, potatoes and other goods waits for customers in Manila market on April 25, 2008. (Photo: ROMEO GACAD/AFP via Getty Images)

Since the start of the year, consumers have faced a supply chain problem leading to a global shortage of potatoes, limiting production of popular products like french fries and potato chips.

Amid the crisis, the Department of Agriculture (DA) Undersecretary Kristine Evangelista assured that the supply of local varieties of potatoes remains sufficient for the country. “As far as the Department of Agriculture is concerned, our local potatoes, which unfortunately are not the variety used for french fries, are very very much sufficient. In reality, we have a surplus,” Evangelista said in a radio interview.

However, Evangelista noted that the local variety of potatoes commonly sold in markets across the country is different from potatoes used by popular restaurant chains and in the production of some potato products such as chips.

According to the agriculture undersecretary, several fast-food restaurant chains have limited their portions of select products that use imported potatoes. Popular restaurant chains McDonald's and Jollibee have noticeably limited their french fries servings to the regular size in contrast to last year’s option for upsizing.

Evangelista explained that these restaurants are obligated to comply with their set standards in the usage of potato varieties for their products.

In an interview with BusinessWorld, Restaurant Owners of the Philippines (RestoPH) president Ric Teng also announced the hike in prices in restaurants in the country.

Citing the Ukraine-Russia conflict and the global pandemic, Teng said that issues in production and supply chains sparked a disruption in operations in restaurants, which prompted the hike in prices of some food items.

“Inevitably, we have to pass on the price increase to the consumer. But restaurants don’t want to raise their prices too much because they don’t want to scare their guests,” Teng said.

In response to the issue, the Department of Trade and Industry announced a ramping up of efforts to link local producers with restaurants to solidify farm-to-table setups. “We should continue to do more of these, also the consolidation of produce to link with institutional users like restaurants and direct-to-consumer apps through online platforms,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said.

Meanwhile, DA engaged local restaurants in hopes of encouraging them to use local potatoes for their side dishes. “Because they don’t have to comply with international fast-food chain requirements, we are in talks with local groups such as RestoPH for this initiative,” Evangelista said

Basti Evangelista is a news and opinion writer who focuses on Philippine national politics and sectoral issues. His personal advocacy includes press freedom and social justice.

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