BusinessWorst Japan harvest in 34 years bites snack makers' shares

Worst Japan harvest in 34 years bites snack makers’ shares

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Japan’s potato chip lovers, beware: Your favorite snacks may become harder to find.

The country’s worst potato harvest in at least 34 years has prompted major snack makers to halt production of several types of snacks.

The news hit share prices on Tuesday of Calbee Inc, which makes about half of Japan’s potato snacks including “Consonme Punch,” and Koike-ya Inc, both of which tumbled to two-month lows.

Bad weather is the main reason behind the shortage. Typhoons and flooding last August swamped Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido, which produces 80 per cent of Japan’s potatoes, leading to the country’s smallest harvest of spring-planted potatoes since 1983, when the agriculture ministry started keeping records.

Calbee, which imported about 15 per cent of its potatoes from the United States in 2015, boosted imports last year to try to meet the shortfall. But it was difficult to get a sustainable supply of potatoes so it decided to temporarily halt production of 15 products and permanently stop 18 items.

Koike-ya, which makes the popular “Karamucho” spicy potato snack, said it was temporarily suspending nine products and permanently ending seven snack items. Its stock tumbled 3.5 per cent to 4,200 yen on Tuesday, Apr. 6, while Calbee dropped 1.2 per cent to 3,760 yen.

Both companies declined to comment on the possible impact of the decisions on their earnings.

Retail potato prices have also risen, climbing 8.6 per cent in 2016. They’ve been rising nearly 20 per cent every month since last October, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

In February, potato prices jumped 22.4 per cent on the year. In Tokyo, 1 kg of potatoes cost 402 yen ($3.60), up from 336 yen in the same month a year ago.

Source: Reuters

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