Food & Drink | April 29, 2020 10:03 am

Belgians Urged to Do Duty By Eating French Fries Twice a Week

More than 750,000 tons of Belgium's potatoes are at risk of being thrown away

Belgians Urged to Do Duty By Doubling French Fry Consumption
People stand in line in front of a French fries vendor in Brussels. (KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty)
AFP via Getty Images

In Belgium, citizens are being asked to do their national duty to help combat COVID-19 by clogging their arteries: To prevent the country’s excess potato supply from going to waste, the Belgian government is urging its citizens to eat French fries at least twice per week.

With restaurants, bars and many of Belgium’s 5,000 frites stands closed, people are being asked to fire up their home deep fryers to prevent 750,000 tons of potatoes from going to waste. Under normal conditions, Belgians eat about 84 pounds of fresh potatoes and 13-15 pounds of processed potatoes at home every year on average, according to Belgium’s National Union of Fry-makers.

With demand for frozen potatoes plummeting, the industry faces a possible loss of up to $135.5 million. Even once the lockdown order is lifted, life likely won’t return to normal, and, thanks to the cancellation of summer festivals and other gatherings, usual levels of potato consumption won’t resume for a long time.

Romain Cools, the secretary general of Belgian potato industry body Belgapom, told CNBC the sustained fall in demand means Belgium’s potato industry is “definitely” facing a long-term crisis.

“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 said. “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.”

Belgium may lift the stay-at-home order for 11.5 million Belgians as soon as Saturday.

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