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The pandemic has left its mark on our lives and our economy. Many workers are now home-based, with others entering completely new careers. Yet, for those in manufacturing industries, jobs are slowly returning to pre-pandemic levels.
Legislators insist that this is a temporary situation as the country reopens. But economic experts disagree and warn of continued shortages and inflated prices. Here are a few of the products that will most likely be affected.
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Many US mills were shut down during the pandemic and have been slow to reopen. The mills halted production in anticipation of a housing slump that never materialized. Instead, the demand for building materials and new homes skyrocketed. Specific cuts of lumber now cost 7 to 8 times more than before the pandemic.
Just a few US mills are operating at above 50% while lumber prices continue soaring to record heights. The reluctance of the current US administration to allow lumber imports from Canada is also impacting the industry. Experts believe prices will come down, but not until sometime near the end of 2022.
The US steel mills were shuttered in early 2020 and then slow to reopen. Industry leaders assumed car sales and building supply orders would be lagging as the nation recovered. Inventories plummeted as carmakers and manufacturers continued to order steel. Steel fence posts, fencing, and other building supplies became scarce.
The good news is that production in the US is now back up to pre-pandemic levels. The bad news is that the shipping/transportation part of the supply chain is still an issue.
Paper or Cotton Products
Household goods needing raw paper or cotton are already suffering supply issues. Examples are diapers, incontinence supplies, sanitary napkins and tampons, and toilet paper. Prices are rising with some manufacturers announcing additional hikes in the near future. Expect empty shelves as deliveries to warehouses and stores could be delayed by several months.
The rising prices and falling inventory of chicken wings and other chicken products are due to several things. The devastating freezes in Texas killed hundreds of thousands of chickens in 2020. Labor shortages at farms, processing facilities, and trucking companies also affect availability in restaurants and stores.
Bacon and Hot Dogs
It may be a little harder to find some of your favorite pork products this summer. Consumer demand is already overtaking the current supply. This shortage is due to Covid outbreaks last summer, with over 40 processing plants being forced to close completely.
The pork industry was already dealing with low production numbers when it suffered another blow during the winter as large numbers of animals were lost due to a highly infectious swine disease. It may be some time before the industry recovers and numbers go back up.
With the ongoing trend of curbside service, takeout only dining, and delivery options, the demand for individual ketchup packets and other condiments has exploded. The shortage is still an issue, but the world’s largest ketchup maker has increased packet production by over 25%. This equals billions of ketchup packets. Bottled ketchup is still readily available from many companies.
It hasn’t become a shortage in the US yet, but corn is in short supply elsewhere. Between swine flu epidemics, labor shortages, and weather problems, the corn supplies from overseas have been severely affected. The prices are rising in correlation with the dwindling surpluses.
Experts warn that they could go even higher if domestic production is affected by disasters such as disease, drought, and other weather problems. Corn is used for human and livestock food, fuel, and other products.
Certain imported cheeses, coffees, olive oil, and seafood are already becoming scarcer on the shelves with higher prices. This is caused by weeks-long delays as ships are held offshore waiting for permission to dock and begin unloading at US ports.
Labor shortages at the docks, warehouses, and transportation hubs all contribute to this stoppage. Many US companies are raising prices on their domestic products that rely on some of the imported ingredients.
A 2020 chemical plant fire in Louisiana receives a large part of the blame for the current shortage of chlorine tablets. Pool owners in warm climates are spending more time at home and in their pools, increasing the demand.
The sanitizing tablets are a hot item with prices that doubled or more and are currently the highest they have ever been. Experts advise users to stock up now as the retail prices will continue to rise with no foreseeable end in sight.
If you are shopping for anything that requires a computer chip or processor, you may be out of luck. A global shortage of semiconductors and chips is causing inventory issues for manufacturers. The automotive industry has been hit hard by the shortage. While automakers were slowing down production, technology companies were buying up chips.
Laptops, printers, and other electronics flew off the shelves as people began telecommuting or homeschooling their children. With only a few manufacturers running at full capacity, this shortage is predicted to extend past the end of 2021.
Gas prices have risen astronomically compared to the last four years. A lack of qualified tanker truck drivers is partly to blame. With over 25% of the nation’s fuel trucks parked, the supply chain has been crippled.
Other problems affecting prices this year include freezes in Texas that halted production for long periods. The May ransomware attack on the country’s largest oil pipeline added to the headache. The industry remains fragile as hurricanes, refinery fires, and tanker spills can all have catastrophic effects on the supply. Some experts are predicting a possible fuel shortage in the US.
This article was not intended to scare you into running out and purchasing everything on the list and becoming a hoarder. Don’t be a panic buyer! Instead, you are encouraged to plan ahead and determine if you might need some of these items before the prices rise. Shop wisely and stock up accordingly with only what you need and will use.
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