TODAY VENEZUELA – Forget the French fries. How about a side of yuca with that Big Mac? For the second time in as many months, an entire country is having go without McDonald’s fries. Last month it was Japan, and now it’s Venezuela.
The fast-food giant confirmed the shortage to Quartz. Becca Hary, a company spokeswoman, wouldn’t say what caused the shortfall, but said hungry Venezuelans can still get yuca fries, or corn-based arepas, while McDonald’s sorts out the issue.
Venezuela’s more than 100 McDonald’s franchises are now serving alternatives like deep-fried arepa flatbreads or yuca, a starchy staple of traditional South American cooking.
The burger chain isn’t the first multinational to run into trouble in Venezuela, where a troubled economy is in recession and inflation is sky-high. Airlines have been complaining for months about the difficulty in getting their cash out the country (paywall), and for the past year or so, there have been shortages of goods like toilet paper and milk.
McDonald’s is blaming a contract dispute with West Coast dock workers for halting the export of frozen fries to the country. The dispute also caused several days of French fry rationing in Japan last month. But Sonia Ruseler, an Argentina-based spokeswoman for Arcos Dorados, which runs McDonald’s restaurants in Latin America, declined to say Tuesday why Venezuela’s neighbors are not suffering from similar scarcity.
Rival Burger King, meanwhile, used sly social media posts Tuesday to remind Venezuelans that some fast food chains are still offering American-style fries.
John Toaspern, chief marketing officer with the US Potato Board, noted that Venezuela’s import of frozen potatoes fell off a cliff long before the labor dispute escalated. During the first 10 months of 2014, the country imported just 14 percent of the frozen fries from major McDonald’s supplier Washington State that it brought in for the same period the year before, according to federal data compiled by the board.