It was a mid-afternoon, early evening snack that oftentimes ended up being my dinner for the day when we stayed in London a couple of years ago.
Of course, I’m talking about beer and french fries (or chips as they call them in England).
I know french fries aren’t the healthiest food in the world, but what can I say, it’s one of my favorite foods in the world.
And beer? Well, beer is beer.
So what’s this got to do with Belgium?
I did not know that Belgium is the world’s largest exporter of potatoes, and 2020 looked like it would be a good year for the industry, following a 7.5% rise last year in the production of frozen fries. But the virus outbreak halted exports to China, then triggered a slowdown of potato sales across Europe as lockdown measures were implemented.
Because of the lockdowns in place, the demand for frozen potatoes has nosedived in recent weeks, and the Belgian industry faces the possible loss of 125 million euros ($135.5 million), if hundreds of tons of surplus potatoes don’t move this year, according to Romain Cools, the Belgapom secretary-general.
Belgians eat french fries once a week, and it’s always a festive moment. The french fry culture is strong in Belgium, where people also share a taste for beer with the chip-eaters in Britain. There are even outside shacks known as “fritkoten” where Belgians queue up day in and day out in normal times to buy their beloved fries. These shacks were allowed to stay open during the lockdown, but approximately 80% remain closed, contributing to the big drop in the demand for potatoes.
So what to do, you may ask?
One proposed solution is asking Belgians o eat frozen fries twice a week at home in an effort to support the potato industry. In other words, double your weekly consumption of french fries. That would also likely lead to an increase in beer consumption.
Now I don’t know how to make a mask and I’m not working on the front-line of the pandemic, but eating french fries and drinking beer sounds like not only a great way to bond with the local Belgians, I’d also be doing my part to fight covid-19.
So I plan to start a Kickstarter campaign that will fund my airfare, accommodations, beer, fries and tips for two weeks in Belgium. I’ll let you know when it’s ready for your contributions.
I think two weeks should be enough time to help move the needle for the potato industry.