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McDonald's downsizes fries in Japan

By Associated Press in Tokyo | China Daily | Updated: 2014-12-18 08:13

Only small fries with that?

McDonald's in Japan is limiting the serving size of french fries as stocks of the potatoes run short because of labor disruptions on the US West Coast.

The fast-food chain began rationing its fries on Wednesday morning, saying prolonged labor negotiations with port workers have made it difficult to meet demand despite an emergency airlift of 1,000 metric tons of spuds and an extra shipment by sea from the country's East Coast.

Frozen french fries - ready for the deep-fryer - are a leading US export.

Japanese consume more than 300,000 tons of french fries a year, mostly at fast-food restaurants, mostly imported from the US. Shipments in December are expected to be just over half the normal level, Japanese newspapers reported.

Demand is rising as convenience stores are increasingly selling fries.

McDonald's has 3,100 outlets in Japan. It cut prices for set meals to compensate for including only small-size fries.

Customers expressed disappointment as they left a downtown Tokyo McDonald's outlet on Wednesday.

"The kids like the bigger sizes, so it's a shame," said businessman Kenichi Kuniki, 45.

Japan's locally grown potatoes are mostly eaten fresh, rather than as fries, and production has been declining for years. But Japan enforces strict limits on where and how fresh potatoes are imported.

The powerful dock workers union and multinational shipping lines have been negotiating a new contract for about 20,000 West Coast workers. In the meantime, labor disruptions have slowed shipments and driven costs higher.

Japanese consumers are also facing a shortage of butter that has prompted grocery stores to limit shoppers to one or two packages apiece. That shortage stems from declining domestic production plus trade barriers and other restrictions that limit imports.

McDonald's downsizes fries in Japan

(China Daily 12/18/2014 page10)

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