On the West Coast of America a labor dispute with the port workers has meant there has been a potato shortage over here in Japan. Not enough spuds are making their way across the Pacific. For a while MacDonalds ran out and then only would sell small orders of French Fries. Meanwhile KFC has discontinued offering french fries until its potato supply issue can be fixed. The shortage just goes to show how globalized Japan’s food industry is. A labor issue in Western America turns off the French Fries all the way over the ocean to Japan. The “potato crisis” brings to memory the great Toilet Paper Crisis of ’73.
Japan imports most of its food. Yet the “shortage” is a little deceiving, sure you can’t get a large French Fries at Macdonalds but there are still potatoes in the supermarket, just not the cheap mass produced kind that Macdonalds needs to profitably sell to you a side of French Fries. Take Japan’s most important food, rice. In order to comply with World Trade Organization rules Japan has to import a certain amount of rice. It dutifully imports X amount of tons but doesn’t hand them over for consumption.
Instead the imported rice is sent as food aid to North Korea, added to beer and rice cakes, or mixed with other grains to feed pigs and chickens. Or it just sits in storage for years. — Bloomberg
People talk about how screwed Japan would be if it couldn’t import food but Japan imports so much because it eats a western style diet and wastes an incredible amount of that. Japan won’t starve if it can’t import, its people just won’t be able to eat at the level they do now. Miso soup anyone?
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