Belgium's answer to COVID-19 crisis - eat more frites!

Belgium, one of the world's largest exporters of potatoes, is facing the problem of a surplus of the product. Some 750,000 tonnes are languishing in the nation's warehouses as bars and restaurants across Europe and beyond are closed, and demand has plummeted.

However, the Belgian potato growers' union Belgapom (its true - they have their own trade union) has the answer - eat more chips, or frites as they are called in Belgium.

Whilst the humble chip is generally known in the UK for its' supporting role in the national dish of Fish 'n' Chips, in Belgium it stands alongside beer and chocolate as a national icon.

Merkel Frites

The ubiquitous friturie, is a fixture in every village, town, and city across the land, and queuing for 20 minutes for a bag of frites smothered in mayonnaise, or one of the many chemically coloured and flavoured variants thereof, is a must for locals and tourists alike. (Note to British visitors - if you ask if they have any vinegar they will look at you as if you are mad!)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is known to be a fan, and has been seen after a hard day at a Brussels summit queuing at Maison Antione, a stone's throw from the EU institutions, along with everybody else for her frites.

The union has suggested that Belgians should increase their consumption, and visit their favourite friturie twice a week to help to move the surplus.

It is hoped that the gradual lifting of restrictions across Europe will ease the situation as much of the product is exported - some 1.5 million tonnes to over 100 countries. At the moment the USA is experiencing a shortage of frozen chips, and Belgapom will be watching events there anxiously.

In the meantime the union has been supplying potatoes to food banks in the Flanders region - some 25,000 tonnes so far - and there is a demand from the biofuel sector, although the price offered is far lower than the €150 per tonne that is the norm.

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Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright is publishing editor and Brussels correspondent of EU Today.

An experienced journalist and author, he specialises in environment, energy, and defence.

He also has more than 10 years experience of working as a staff member in the EU institutions, working with political groups and MEPs in various policy areas.

In October 2021 POLITICO described Gary as "the busiest man in Brussels!"

He is a of member the Chartered Institute of Journalists, a professional association for journalists, the senior such body in the UK, and the oldest in the world having been founded in October 1884

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