Belgian potato glut leads to calls to eat fries twice a week

Belgian potato glut leads to calls to eat fries twice a week
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Belgian citizens are being urged to eat more potatoes as the country faces a massive oversupply as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

CNBC reported Tuesday that a top official representing the country's potato industry group Belgapom said plans are underway to work with grocery chains to encourage weekly consumption of potato products such as french fries in an attempt to prevent the food from going to waste.

“We’re working with supermarkets to see whether we can launch a campaign asking Belgians to do something for the sector by eating fries — especially frozen fries — twice a week during the coronavirus crisis,” Romain Cools told CNBC. “What we are trying to do is to avoid food waste, because every lost potato is a loss."

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“To be very honest, the effect on potato consumption will probably last for months, and we can only try to find solutions where the solutions are — for us in Belgium, that could be pushing home consumption,” he added. “We’ve also asked farmers not to plant that many potatoes for the next season because we believe this season will take some extra months away from next year by postponing processing.”

Much of the oversupply is being blamed on Belgium's decision, like that of many other countries, to shutter bars and restaurants as well as other public places to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The country has confirmed more than 47,000 cases of the disease.

Whether the crisis abates in the coming months, Cools said, is still uncertain and leading to growers seeking other uses for potatoes, including biofuel.

“We’re also afraid of the second wave of coronavirus — we all are aware of the fact that the outbreak will perhaps never finish,” Cools said. “It won’t be over for sure until we have a vaccination program running, and that may not be until the beginning of next year.”

“A lot of people are really optimistic in my country and in the potato sector,” he added. “But to be very honest, as we say in Dutch, I’m holding my heart for the months to come.”