After a 10-month hiatus, the return of the French fry is delighting Venezuelans everywhere. McDonald’s French fries are now available again in the South American country – but there is a catch – an order of the salty treats costs about $133.
McDonald’s launched the return of the fries earlier this week with an advertising campaign that included a countdown on social media and huge banners encouraging customers to exchange their fried yuca (a root that is comparable to a potato) for real potatoes.
So, the question becomes: why are French fries – made out of potatoes – so expensive???
For one thing, the Venezuelan government tightly controls the country’s currency. These restrictions make it difficult for Venezuelan citizens and companies to take their money across the country’s borders. The government also limits the amount of currency that companies can buy without first receiving government approval. The tight currency controls have led to a major shortage of all kinds of everyday goods such as milk, medicines, toilet paper, condoms and chicken.
After potatoes became too difficult to import, McDonald’s changed their menu and replaced potato French fries with yuca fries. Now, the burger behemoth is sourcing potatoes from Venezuela’s local farmers.
On the black market, potato French fries are reportedly selling for about 64 cents. But, at the official exchange rate, the fries are offered at between $79 to $133. And, this is despite the fact that Venezuela’s monthly minimum wage is worth about $12 on the black market.
Some customers believe the timing of the re-release of the French fries is suspect as national elections take place in four weeks. These elections have been hotly contested and it is very possible that the country’s ruling socialist party may suffer its first major defeat. In the months leading up to the elections, the government has taken a number of measures to please consumers, including forcing retailers to lower the prices of consumer goods.
While the French fry was benched, McDonald’s chief rival, Burger King, spent the time reminding fast food patrons that it still has a number of wide-ranging sides.
Additionally, President Nicolas Maduro’s administration poked criticism at McDonald’s, claiming the company represents United States capitalism and suggesting that the restaurant’s Happy Meals lack nutrition for the country’s youth.
A worker at a McDonald’s in Caracas told the Associated Press that, “Customers have been coming in really excited. But when we tell them the price, not so much.”