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Rarotonga runs out of frozen fries

Wednesday 10 August 2022 | Written by Sian Solomon | Published in Local, National

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Rarotonga runs out of frozen fries
A notice at Vili's Burger Joint reads “No French fries until next week”. Photo: SIAN SOLOMON/22080905

Restaurants and fast-food chains in Rarotonga have been hit by a shortage of potato fries, as bad weather and shipping issues have delayed shipments and unloading of the frozen product.

Until new supplies arrive, customers and businesses are having to swap out normal potato fries for something the country has no shortage of – the island fries. 

Alex Kermode, who is the owner of the Sea Salt Takeaway in Avatiu, says the shortage of frozen potato fries has impacted his business dramatically.

“It’s affected us massively, we have turned away a lot of tourists,” Kermode said. 

“We tried to complement them (potato fries) with the island fries, and that went well for a while, but over a week it exhausted everyone’s taste buds. 

“We (also) do a kids’ meal and that was hit quite hard. Because kids prefer normal fries over the island fries,” he added. 

“(But) I heard they were trying to get them in today (Tuesday). Everything (including the frozen potato fries) is on that boat out there in the harbour.”  

Gaye Whitta, the general manager at Cook Islands Trading Corporation (CITC), said the container boat carrying a shipment of the frozen product was supposed to dock in Rarotonga on August 4, but has been sitting out of the harbour due to bad weather. 

Whitta said the frozen shipment of potato fries once landed in Rarotonga would be limited to CITC customers. 

“When Prime Foods run out of stock, their customers come to us and that’s why we have run out of it too,” Whitta told Cook Islands News.

“Prime Foods have been out of it for a couple of weeks now, and they are the biggest supplier of frozen (potato) fries on the island.”

Whitta said airfreighting frozen fries which comes out of the South Island in New Zealand would be expensive.

“We obviously need to balance it out whether customers are willing to pay the extra costs. I guess it’s a good time to go local with island fries.”

Prime Foods managing director Dan Forsyth said his supermarket ran out of the frozen fast-food staple last week.

He said it takes three months for the frozen fries to get to the Cook Islands. Prime Foods orders their frozen fries from the Netherlands.

“It’s supposed to arrive at the end of the month,” Forsyth said.

“I had placed the order a year in advance, but the shipment got delayed because they had no 40-foot container. This was during the time of the outbreak that happened in Europe. So we are actually having two 40-foot containers coming at the same time due to the earlier delay. 

“Because our prices are so much lower, everyone started ordering from us, so I ordered extra (frozen) fries out of New Zealand, but it only lasted a week when it should have lasted about three weeks – in time for the upcoming shipment later this month,” he added. 

“(However) we have heaps of potatoes if people want some fresh fries.”

A spokesperson for Trader Jack’s said apart from a few other items they were doing fine for potato fries.

They said: “We are doing fine, as we did a backorder. So we don’t really have any issues.”