Twelve dollars for a bag of chips might not seem too bad; maybe they are a sriracha chip, or maybe they are gold chips. Well, they aren’t. Normal potato chips in Japan selling for $12+ per bag due to their potato shortage; these chips usually go for about $1.20 per bag. This potato shortage has caused many upset consumers in Japan.

Did they forget to plant potatoes?

carbohydrate, tuber, potato, pasture, vegetable
Jocelyn Hsu

Japan did not forget to plant potatoes. A region called Hokkaido, which is a key producer for potatoes, was hit by some nasty typhoons. These typhoons took out a lot of the potato crop, which is causing for this shortage. Hokkaido accounts for 80% of Japan’s potato market, which is why it is having such a big effect on the potato chip market.

The new chip market

salt, chips, potato, corn, french fries
Emily Palmer

The snack industry in Japan is suffering due to this shortage. Potato chips and other snacks that contain potatoes are the most popular type of snack in Japan. Shelves are completely empty and black markets for chips have started. These black markets for potato chips includes online auction sales of potato chips and selling to Japan's consumers on the street. Over 15 types of potato chips from the largest potato chip producer, Calbee, have been halted.

Other markets

ketchup, salt, potato, french fries
Alex Frank

Japan is unsure yet if other food markets will see a huge hit. This could mean outrageous prices for fast food items such as French fries. No one will be supersizing it then.

Many restaurants in Japan use potatoes in their main dishes. This could cause for a need to use other types of starches or the prices for these dishes to be outrageous. Come on, what does a girl have to do to get a reasonably priced baked potato in Japan?


Importing potatoes from America and other potato producing countries may seem like the obvious option. But hold up, Japan has some strict regulations on imports. These strict regulations allow very little potato imports, not to mention getting fresh potatoes to Japan under their strict quarantine system is difficult and expensive.

This is not the first time Japan has seen a crisis for a basic food item. Japan experienced a shortage of butter in 2014-2015 due to low milk production in Hokkaido. Japan’s current import policies make importing more potatoes not a great solution. Therefore they have reached out to potato farmers in Hokkaido and have urged them to harvest their potato crops earlier to shorten the shortage. Time will only tell if the farmers will comply and the problem will be solved. 

Japan is in quite a time crunch to get potatoes harvested and back out on the market. This summer when you go to grab your favorite bag of potato chips for that BBQ, do not forget how much of a luxury it is to have potato chips.