When Icelandic frozen- and ready-made food company Þykkvabæjar stopped producing french fries earlier this summer, they were the last remaining producer of the popular side dish in Iceland.
Now, with no domestic producers left, all french fries in Iceland must be imported. The lack of domestic production, however, has raised questions over what, exactly, protectionist tariffs are protecting.
In a recent report by the National Association of Employers, it came to light that Icelandic consumers have paid a total of ISK 800 million in french fry tariffs in the past two and a half years.
Those imported from Canada and the EU are taxed at a rate of 46%, and french fries from elsewhere are taxed at a much higher 76%. Given the growing share of the tourism and service industries, this cost is not trivial.
The National Association of Employers has petitioned the Minister of Finance to repeal the tariffs, stating that they no longer protect anything and only hurt the consumer.
Ólafur Stephensen, managing director of the National Association of Employers, has cited the french fry tariff as one more unnecessary burden. During a time of high inflation, he stated, such burdens should be minimized as far as possible: “These numbers clearly show that there is a lot at stake for Icelandic consumers, the trade and the restaurant sector to abolish this protectionist tariff that no longer protects anything. The duties amount to 300-400 million per year and at a time when food prices are constantly rising, such sums make a difference.”
Ólafur, along with other consumer-advocacy groups, has since called on the Minister of Finance to repeal the tariff.