Let Them Eat Fries Switzerland Steps in to Avert Spud Shortage

The risk of football fans having to forgo their French fries during Euro 2008 has been averted. Only weeks before Europe's biggest soccer tournament kicks off in Switzerland, the government has stepped in to guarantee potato supplies.

Anyone who has been to a soccer game in Europe knows that fries and burgers are among the most popular food items on sale at football grounds. So, it must have come as a shock when Switzerland's potato industry association warned supplies of the lowly spud were running low -- just weeks before Euro 2008, the continent's biggest soccer tournament, gets underway.

But fans heading to Switzerland for next month's tournament can rest assured they will not have to do without fries. The Swiss government has taken measures to ease the potato shortage. A spokesman for the country's Department of Agriculture told Swiss radio station RadioDRS Wednesday that the government would allow an extra 5,000 tons of potatoes to be imported.

The Swiss potato industry association, Swisspatat, had been warning there could be a fry shortage, as demand for potatoes before the soccer tournament had risen sharply. The association had asked the government to ease import restrictions.

The Agriculture Department spokesman told the radio station that Economics Minister Doris Leuthard, who is also responsible for agriculture, had granted the request after receiving assurances from the potato association. He said the government had been told the extra imports would not affect the internal potato market, Swiss daily newspaper Neue Züricher Zeitung reported Thursday.

The Swiss consume around 500,000 tons of locally-grown potatoes every year. In recent years the country has also imported between 23,000 and 60,000 tons of potatoes per annum, depending on demand.

Switzerland, which is jointly hosting Euro 2008 with Austria, already had a massive food scare this year. The Swiss have been worrying about falling supplies of the cervelat  sausage, a national symbol. The European Union recently banned the use of the Brazilian cows' intestines traditionally used to encase the meat.

Euro 2008, which sees 16 of the continent's top national soccer sides compete for the title of European champion, runs from June 7 to 29.


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