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The supply chain continues to struggle to keep up with demand.
The peak of the Covid-19 pandemic has passed for several months, but the supply chain issues have not yet resolved themselves. Many industries face a mismatch of production capacity and demand; rampant inflation is not helping either.
As a result, consumers face shortages of products ranging from paper to medicines, and these shortages can have a deleterious effect on daily life.
And while some experts are hopeful the supply chain could reach more “normal” levels next year, others caution against being overly optimistic.
5 items currently facing a shortage
One of the most basic products is experiencing a shortage today.
When the Covid pandemic hit, life was forced indoors and online. Demand for paper plummeted, as did American production in response. Many paper mills pivoted during the pandemic to produce packaging and paperboard to cope with the new reliance on online shopping, leading to an almost 20% reduction in production capacity from 2019, according to comments from ERA Forest Products Research in the Seattle Times.
But once the shutdowns eased, demand for paper products soared and factories struggled to return to pre-pandemic production levels. Many factories that have switched to packaging cannot easily switch back to paper production.
To add fuel to the fire is to increase inflation, which makes papermaking more expensive. Raw material costs to produce paper have risen dramatically, driving the price of paper up to 60%, according to Business Insider.
How to deal: If you are a business owner looking for a specific type of paper for your marketing materials or inventory, ask your local printer or paper supplier what other options are available. If you occasionally buy paper to fill your printer at home, you might notice a spike in prices. Consider switching to a cheaper brand, if available. If you’re someone who buys paper online, keep in mind that many e-commerce brands use real-time dynamic pricing, which results in constantly changing prices. Use price tracking apps, like CamelCamelCamel or Shopify, to determine if you hit the buy button during a price spike.
US diesel and gasoline inventories are currently suffering from tight supplies, according to CBS News. Many factors are contributing to supply pressure, including the war in Ukraine, refinery shutdowns, natural disasters and an explosion at a Philadelphia refinery.
You may have heard that the United States only has 25 days of diesel left. But that doesn’t mean the country is on the verge of complete exhaustion; analysts point out That’s far from being the case. This alarmist figure is only likely if all of the country’s oil refineries were to close immediately, which analysts say is out of the question.
How to deal: The best way to deal with the current diesel shortage is to resist panic buying; collectively, panic buying could further deplete a declining supply. The shortage could ease once demand cools, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when that might happen.
3. Some prescription drugs
Drug manufacturers are struggling to meet the needs. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some commonly used drugs are currently suffering from shortages, causing a lot of stress for patients and medical staff:
- Albuterol Sulfate Inhalation Solution: Used to treat symptoms of asthma, emphysema and other respiratory conditions.
- Amoxicillin: This antibiotic is used to treat a variety of bacterial infections, including RSV, a respiratory disease that is currently on the rise.
- Extra charge : Compounds used to make Adderall, a drug used to manage ADHD symptoms, are in short supply.
- Epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen): Tits drugs are used to treat severe anaphylactic allergic reactions.
How to deal: In some cases, stopping a prescribed medication unexpectedly can have adverse health effects. Adderall, for example, is a stimulant, which means patients can experience severe withdrawal if they stop cold turkey. If a drug you rely on is in short supply, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about whether suitable substitutes for your prescriptions are available.
4. Baby formula
Despite the efforts of the federal government, the country continues to face a shortage of infant formula.
The shortage was caused by the temporary closure of a key infant formula factory in Michigan after contamination of some products caused bacterial infections in four infants, two of whom died. The discovery also led to a recall of a formula made at the same plant, which exacerbated an already tight supply.
The Biden administration has invoked the Defense Production Act to expedite formula production. Despite this, government officials said as recently as early November “there is clearly still a problem” with the shelving of infant formula and that it will take time for the shortage to ease.
How to deal: Since every baby’s needs are different and every family has different resources, there is no one-size-fits-all answer on how parents can deal with the baby formula shortage. The Department of Health and Human Services says most babies will “do just fine” with different brands of formula, as long as they are made from the same base.
Forbes Health has a comprehensive guide to safely managing infant formula shortages, as well as a guide to changing infant formula.
We are not yet officially in butter shortage. But experts warn the supply of butter is dwindling ahead of the busy holiday baking and cooking season.
The biggest culprit threatening the butter supply is the production of milk, the main ingredient in butter. The number of dairy cows has declined as it has become more expensive to raise and keep them.
As a result, butter production in the United States has tended to decline this year, according to data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Reduced supply and continued consumer demand have sent the cost of butter skyrocketing nearly 27% year over year, according to the latest Consumer Price Index report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. . The average price for a pound of butter was $3.14 for the week ending October 29; around this time last year it was below $2.
How to deal: The worst decision consumers can make is to start panic buying butter. Since supplies are limited, but not officially in short supply, collective panic buying could lead to the onset of a real shortage. If you find yourself running out of butter for cooking, there are substitutes that may work in some recipes, including pumpkin puree and applesauce.
For other uses, there are vegan butter alternatives such as Earth Balance and Miyoko’s, which taste similar to real butter and are unlike the plasticized margarine alternatives of years past. Most stores also sell imported brands of butter like Kerrygold, although these usually come at a premium.
Are shortages the new normal?
Ongoing shortages may have consumers wondering if these supply disruptions are the new norm. But experts see a light at the end of the supply chain tunnel.
The start of the Covid-19 pandemic caused severe disruptions in supply chains, with containment measures limiting production. The global supply chain is so tightly interconnected that these knots still take time to unravel.
As the lockdowns eased, demand for many products grew exponentially, but supplies struggled to keep up. The war in Ukraine further compounds these problems by reducing many commodities used in the production process, including oil.
This perfect storm of doom is causing the supply chain to recover at a snail’s pace, but it is recovering. Data from the New York Fed’s Global Supply Chain Strain Index suggests that these pressures are starting to return to pre-Covid levels.
Supply chain disruptions are expected to return to “normal” in 2023, as reported by Bloomberg, although this recovery varies by industry and region.
For now, consumers should expect shortages to continue to be a part of everyday life for the foreseeable future.