Japanese crisps shortage reaching ‘crisis point’ after typhoons hit harvest

Japanese snack company Calbee halted the sale of some of its most popular chip brands last month and photos of almost empty shelves were trending on social media

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The Independent Online

A crisp shortage that has been gripping snack-loving Japan is now reaching crisis point, according to local media.

Slammed by a poor harvest, consumers have for weeks been having to pay up to get their hands on a packet of potato crisps, but supplies are now on the brink of running completely dry, according to Nikkei Asian Review, a subsidiary of the country’s flagship daily, which also owns the Financial Times.

In order to make crisps, manufacturers have to use a particular type of potato that retains its colour when cooked, according to the publication.

But the yield of those potatoes on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido last autumn was paltry because of a series of typhoons, and spring potatoes are not due to arrive until late May. That’s resulted in an intense squeeze on manufacturers and retailers, trying to supply a nation of crisp lovers.

According to Bloomberg, some packets of crisps were already selling at up to six times their retail price online last month, as households rushed to stock up amid fears of supermarket rationing.

Japanese snack company Calbee halted the sale of some of its most popular chip brands and photos of almost empty shelves were trending on social media.

A national survey of 10,000 people and 13 confectionery makers conducted by television network TV Asahi last year, showed that Calbee’s potato-snack products were the most and second-most popular snacks among Japanese.

For many Japanese, the crisp crisis is evoking a sense of déjà vu, according to Nikkei Asian Review.

In 2014 and 2015, Japan was hit by a shortage of butter due to falling milk production, also in Hokkaido. The shortage intensified as confectioners ramped up production in the run up to Christmas.

In Europe, a vegetable crisis following poor weather in southern Europe earlier this year led some supermarkets to impose quotas on items like courgettes and broccoli. 

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