First the bad news: Thanks to the intense and long-lasting drought of this summer, the frites on sale in most outlets promise to be smaller and more expensive, according to the potato industry. As the drought lasted, potatoes remained in the ground, starved of water. The result: a lack of growth, and a loss of tonnage for farmers. That will be compensated somewhat by the increase in prices, for which the consumer will have to cough up.
The quantity, quality and the price of potatoes will be felt across the sector, from processed potatoes like frozen frites, fresh potatoes in the supermarket as well as prepared frites in restaurants and snack bars. At present, harvests are up to 25% lower than in the last five years.
Now the good news:
The prices of another Belgian favourite, the grey shrimp (grijze garnalen/crevettes grises) is likely to drop through the floor, as the warm water drove more of them to the coast, where they are more likely to be fished.
“Two months ago shrimp were going to about ten euros a kilo, not you’d be lucky to get three euros, and the consumer will see the difference,” said Matthijs van der Ploeg from the Dutch shrimp-fishers’ union. The Dutch harvest by far more grey shrimp than the Belgians, despite the picturesque image of the horseback fishermen of Oostduinkerke (photo).
Fishers are landing four times more shrimp than normal, at this time of year, Van der Ploeg said, and the union has advised them to take one or two days a week off, in order not to depress prices further.
Whether the price drop for shrimp will be passed on to consumers is, of course, a question for the future. The question for potatoes is, however, more predictable.