Potato (Chip) Famine in Japan; Panic Buying Ensues

Potato chips are a big deal in Japan. Typhoons that hit Hokkaido last August have resulted in a domestic spud shortage for Japan. And fewer potatoes means fewer potato chips, which resulted in a surge in demand for the product since last week.

Japan Today reports that starting April 15, Calbee will no longer ship 18 potato chip snack varieties, and from April 22, it will temporarily suspend 15 more varieties, including its Big Bag Lightly Salted, possibly the country’s most iconic potato chip.

This has resulted in products going on offer for 6 times their retail price online after Japanese snack company Calbee halted the sale of some of its most popular chip brands. Calbee’s pizza-flavoured chips were going for about 1,250 yen (S$16) on Yahoo Japan’s auction website on Friday. One bag usually sells for less than 200 yen.

It appears that the nation is undergoing a “Potato Crisis,” according to the Nikkei newspaper.

Many of the imported potatoes did not reach the required level of quality, and could not cover their full production range, according to Calbee. Smaller potato-chip rival Koike-ya, which only uses domestic potatoes, has also halted the sale of 9 snack products.

Photos of near-empty shelves at their local supermarkets were trending on Twitter. Among the chips that will be temporarily discontinued are Calbee’s French salad, pizza, and plum flavours, as well as Koikeya’s rich consommé flavor, according to Japanese media. The brand that appears to be hit hardest is Pizza Potato, which is one of the varieties Calbee will no longer make.

Both Koike-ya and Calbee said they aren’t sure when sales will resume. In the meantime, potato chips are flying off of (nearly empty) shelves.