KFC downtown

FLASHBACK MAY, 2021: A total of four customers were captured inside KFC Independence Square, Port of Spain  as restaurants were allowed to re-open for business since having their doors shut on April 6. Photo: JERMAINE CRUICKSHANK

PRESTIGE Holdings Ltd is mitigating any potential shortage of potatoes for the KFC French fries lovers.

International news outlets have been reporting a global potato shortage, since last week.

In Kenya this month, Kentucky Fried Chicken locations struck French fries, known locally as chips, from menus, as virus-related shipping delays held up containers of potatoes for more than a month.

KFC’s chief executive for East Africa, Jacques Theunissen, told Kenya’s Business Daily that it could not easily switch to Kenyan potatoes because of global quality standards.

“All suppliers need to go through the global quality assurance approval process, and we cannot bypass that even if we run out to ensure that our food is safe for consumption by our customers,” he said.

Some called for a KFC boycott on social media and asked why the franchise had not sought approval for local suppliers from the start.

Speaking with the Express yesterday Simon Hardy, Group CEO at Prestige Holdings, said much of the potato crop in Europe had to be destroyed, as a result of bad weather. That meant the amount of fast-food-quality potatoes being produced globally was much lower than expected recently, Hardy said. There has also been surge globally in demand for fries, he noted.

“We are getting a double whammy, you are getting a reduced supply of potatoes and a surge in demand for fries. The global supply chain, which restaurants and businesses have been experiencing since the pandemic started, is making it difficult to deal with, along with the shipping of containers of perishable goods on time,” Hardy said.

It’s against this background that the food chain company is working with its key suppliers to mitigate the issue.

“We are trying as best as we can to not reach that point of no French fries at our fast food outlets, but with this pandemic, anything is possible, so we are doing all we can to ensure a supply to our customers in Trinidad and Tobago,” the executive said.

China, Russia, India and the United States are the world’s top potato producers. But last year, US farmers had to destroy a glut of millions of potatoes after lockdowns and stay-at-home orders led to a steep decline in demand, including from restaurants.

The US potato crop declined by 2 per cent in 2021, according to a November report by the US Department of Agriculture.

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Some vendors have upped the price by $1 after flour prices went up earlier this month.

On Monday, I Love Sauce Doubles Team took to their Facebook page to announce a price increase. Doubles have moved from $5 to $6, triples are $8 and saheena is now $6 for one. A Sauce Team member, who did not wish to be identified, said yesterday it was a tough decision to make but many food items have been increasing in a domino effect.