French fries could be more expensive as drought threatens German potato crops
French fries in Germany are about to get more expensive — or a lot smaller. And there will be no relief from other countries.
Sustained high temperatures and a lack of rainfall have hit German farmers hard, including the country's important potato sector.
The German Association of the Fruit, Vegetable and Potato Processing Industry (BOGK) warned on Sunday that the ongoing droughtmeans potato harvests will be "dramatically" reduced this year.
Out of all the potato products, french fries are likely to be impacted the most, the association warned.
"Large potatoes, which are necessary to produce french fries, will only be available in small numbers or in the worst case not at all in many areas," the BOGK said in a statement.
The association's director noted that prices for french fries will likely go up, or that the fries will be much shorter as producers will only be able to use smaller potatoes.
"If the larger assortments aren't there, you have to go back to the smaller batches," BOGK director Horst-Peter Karos told news agency DPA.
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Up to 40 percent of crops could fail
The BOGK estimates that a minimum of 25 percent of the potato crops this year will fail, while the association's director said that number could be as high as 40 percent if conditions continue.
"If the weather doesn't change, the crops will fail," BOGK director Horst-Peter Karos told news agency DPA.
Agriculture experts said that using sprinklers to water the fields won't do much to improve the harvest situation under the current circumstances.
Importing potatoes from other European Union countries likely won't be an option, since several other top potato producers are also experiencing droughts.
Imports from non-EU countries are also not a viable solution as the imports are expensive and also only possible in limited amounts to reduce the risk of spreading potato diseases.
From French fries to potato pancakes to potato salads — Germany is a country that loves its potatoes. They're a staple side dish in many traditional recipes and are always present in their myriad of forms at festivals.
Germany is the largest producer of potatoes in the European Union, according to the EU's statistical office, Eurostat. Last year, over 11 million tons of potatoes were harvested in Germany.
No matter how you slice it, potatoes make up a large part of the average German diet. Whether in soups, mashed, fried, or served as French fries or chips, an average of roughly 60-65 kilograms of potatoes are eaten per person per year in Germany.
Native to the Bolivian and Peruvian Andes, the potato first arrived in Germany in 1630. According to legend, King Frederick II of Prussia believed in the economic and nutritious value of potatoes. He tricked local farmers into planting more of the so-called apple of the earth by posting soldiers around the potato fields to protect them. It worked - highly valued goods taste even better.
With over 5,000 varieties of potatoes now grown today, it's important to select the right fruit for your dish. Potatoes are sorted not by color, but by how they cook up. The firm and dense types are best for frying or making potato salad, while the fluffy, floury sorts are ideal for mashing and baking.
Pot lucks can prove problematic in Germany, since potato salad is a popular dish to bring. However, everyone's version is different. Some smother the sliced potatoes in hot oil and bacon; others prefer theirs chilled and coated in mayonnaise and accompanied by pickles. Either way, German potato salad is a must at any grill party.
Hearty German fare often includes potato dumplings, which come in different varieties. Some are made with cooked potatoes, while others mixed with flour for a starker consistency. Known as either Klösse or Knödel, the potato dumpling is a favorite side with pork roast.
Much of those 60-odd kilograms eaten by the average German each year must come from potato chips, considering it takes 10,000 kilograms of potatoes to make 2,500 kilograms of chips. Although chips are not native to Germany, some of the flavor choices are. Originally limited to only paprika or salt, flavors now include currywurst, ketchup and mayonnaise - and even the African sauce chakalaka.
Known as "Pommes" in Germany, French fries are often served with currywurst (pictured) or as a side dish with any other hearty meal. But street vendors also sell them all by themselves, often in paper cones and with a wooden fork - a trend in neighboring Holland and Belgium, too. They are offered with a wide variety of sauces, included standard ketchup, curry-flavored ketchup and mayonnaise.
A delicious, utterly basic dish that gets a lot of play in the German kitchen, the baked potato is cooked in its skin and often comes wrapped in aluminum foil. Served with a hefty helping of a herbed "Quark" (like yogurt) and a side salad, the "Pellkartoffel" will fill you up - even without a portion of meat.
"Reibekuchen" are shredded potatoes mixed with onions, deep fried and topped with applesauce, molasses or smoked salmon and yogurt sauce. They are a delicacy found at many Christmas markets in Germany. Popular with kids, the potato pancake can be quite filling despite its simplicity - but they're greasy, so grab a napkin when you buy them to-go.
Potatoes play a central role in German idioms, too. While the "dumbest farmer harvests the fattest potatoes" is a lament in German, it's similar to the English "fortune favors fools." And being dropped like a hot potato can happen no matter your native tongue. It seems Germans don't just like to eat potatoes - they also like to talk about them.
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