Belgians forced to fork over more for their cherished fries

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Belgians forced to fork over more for their cherished fries

Belgians are having to fork out more for their favorite snack – fries, or fried potato sticks – because of rising energy, commodity and labor costs.

Belgium is the world’s largest exporter of fries and other frozen potato products, with 5.3 million tons of potatoes processed per year and sent to customers in more than 160 countries.

“Fries being such an important product for Belgium, of course, emotionally when you have an increase of 10 or 20 cents a portion it’s heartbreaking, much more than a washing machine or a pair of shoes,” Bernard Lefevre, president of the national union of makers of potato fries, told Reuters

As well as higher energy prices, which are affecting families and businesses almost everywhere, Belgians are having to contend with a ban on single-use plastic forks and plates traditionally used when eating fries.

Bertrand Balasi, manager of  "Tram de Boitsfort" stand, prepares fries in Brussels, Belgium.
Bertrand Balasi, manager of “Tram de Boitsfort” stand, prepares fries in Brussels, Belgium.
REUTERS / Yves Herman

“We need gas to make fries… But you can’t fry fries with a candle,” said Lefevre, who expects prices to rise by about 10% in the coming months, after two years of little change.

The coronavirus pandemic has also caused shortages of sauces including mayonnaise, seen by Belgians as a must when eating their fries.

For Bertrand Balasi, who serves fries from his kiosk in an old tram in Brussels, the price rises are inevitable.

“There are increases in prices of lots of things – be it of fat, of potatoes, energy. So even though we know the price of fries is symbolic we might have to raise them to be able to keep selling a quality product,” Balasi told Reuters TV.

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