The country’s chipocalypse follows on the footsteps of the great Japan potato crisp crisis a few months back that caused Japanese consumers to panic buy their favorite snack for up to $16 per bag.
Chris Claridge, chief executive of Potatoes New Zealand, said there has been 25% more rain than normal, with Horowhenua, Matamata and Pukekohe on the North Island being the worst hit.
About 15% of the potatoes predominantly grown in those areas is used for potato crisps.
A heavy toll
Claridge said the long, wet winter has taken its toll, as paddocks have not dried out so growers cannot harvest or prepare for planting.
“We are 20% behind in supply chain in the North Island,” he added.
Brent Wilcox, president of the Pukekohe Vegetable Growers Association, estimated the loss to growers over the last six months to be millions of dollars.
“The supply position is going to be quite lean for a few months yet,” he said.
Challenge to North Island crisp brands
Table potatoes are also in short supply, but the main impact is putting pressure on the supply of potato crisps.
Claridge noted the chipocalypse will affect those brands produced by companies situated on the North Island.
“South Island manufactures are not finding supply issues as difficult, but again its weather dependent,” he said.
“North Island brands are going to experience difficulties, South Island brands not as much.”
One supermarket has already taken to warning customers of “trouble stocking potato chips” due to the nationwide potato shortage.
However, Antoinette Laird, head of external relations of Foodstuffs NZ – a coop that controls around 52% of the New Zealand grocery market - said the store’s warning was premature and was actually an ordering error.
“We hold a lot of product in our distribution centres and so we aren't short at this stage,” she said.
A popular snack
Crisps – or chips as they are known in the US – are a popular snack for Kiwis.
Potatoes New Zealand reported that consumers spent $157m on potato crisps in 2015. Coupled with the $16m in exports, potato crisps made one-fifth of the revenue for New Zealand’s potato industry, worth $814m.