5 Items Currently Facing Shortages – Forbes Advisor

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The supply chain continues to struggle to meet demand.

The peak of the COVID-19 pandemic has been behind us for several months, but the knots in the supply chain have yet to unfold. Many industries face a mismatch between production capacity and demand; hyperinflation doesn’t help either.

As a result, consumers are experiencing shortages of products from paper to medicine – and these shortages can have a detrimental effect on everyday life.

And while some experts are hopeful that the supply chain could reach more “normal” levels next year, others caution against too much optimism.

5 items currently facing shortages

1. Paper

One of the most basic products is now experiencing a shortage.

When the Covid pandemic broke out, life was forced indoors – and online. Demand for paper fell, as did US production. Many paper mills have turned to packaging and paperboard production during the pandemic to keep up with a newfound reliance on online shopping, leading to a nearly 20% reduction in production capacity since 2019, according to a commentary by ERA Forest Products Research in the Seattle Times.

But as the blockades eased, demand for paper products surged — and mills scrambled to return to pre-pandemic production levels. Many of the paper mills that have switched to packaging cannot easily go back to making paper.

Adding fuel to the fire is rising inflation, which makes paper production more expensive. According to Business Insider, the cost of raw materials to make paper has increased dramatically, increasing the price of paper by as much as 60%.

How to help: If you are a business owner looking for a specific type of paper for marketing materials or inventory, ask your local printing company or paper supplier what other options are available. If you occasionally buy paper to fill your printer at home, you may notice a sharp increase in price. Consider switching to a cheaper brand if available. If you’re buying paper online, keep in mind that many e-commerce brands use real-time dynamic pricing, which results in constant price drift. Use price tracking apps like CamelCamelCamel or Shopify to see if you’re clicking the buy button during a price peak.

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2. Diesel

U.S. diesel and gasoline stocks are currently suffering from tight supplies, CBS News reports. A number of factors are contributing to supply tensions, including the war in Ukraine, refinery shutdowns, natural disasters and an explosion at a refinery in Philadelphia.

You may have heard that diesel only lasts 25 days in the US. However, this does not mean that the country will be completely exhausted; analysts warn this is far from the case. This alarming figure is likely only if all oil refineries in the country were to close at once, which analysts say is unlikely.

How to help: The best way to manage the current diesel shortage is to resist panic buying; collectively, panic buying could further deplete declining stocks. The shortage could ease as demand cools, but when exactly that might be is hard to say.

3. Some prescription drugs

Drug manufacturers are struggling to keep up with demand. According to the US 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: It is 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 spreading.
  • Adderall: The 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 help: In some cases, unexpected discontinuation of a prescribed medication can lead to harmful health effects. Adderall, for example, is a stimulant — meaning patients can experience severe withdrawal symptoms if they quit cold turkey. If there is a shortage of medicines you rely on, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about any relevant substitutes for your prescriptions.

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4. Baby nutrition

Despite the efforts of the federal government, the country continues to struggle with infant formula shortages.

The shortage was caused by the temporary shutdown of a key milk plant in Michigan after contamination of some of the products caused bacterial infections in four infants, two of whom died. The discovery also led to a recall of some formulas made at the same plant, worsening already strained supplies.

The Biden administration invoked the Defense Production Act to speed up production of the formula. Still, government officials said as recently as early November that “there is obviously still a problem” in getting baby formula to the shelves, and that it will take time for the shortage to ease.

How to help: Because every child’s needs are different and every family has different resources, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to how parents can cope with a lack of formula. The Department of Health and Human Services says most babies “will do well” with different brands of formula as long as they are made from the same base.

Forbes Health has an extensive guide to managing infant formula shortages safely, as well as a guide to changing infant formula.

5. Butter

We don’t have an official butter shortage yet. But experts warn that butter supplies are dwindling ahead of the busy holiday baking and cooking season.

The biggest culprit threatening the supply of butter is the production of milk, the main ingredient of butter. The number of dairy cows has dwindled as it has become more expensive to breed and raise them.

According to data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), US butter production is on a downward trend this year.

Tighter supply and continued consumer demand have caused the price of butter to skyrocket nearly 27% year over year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest Consumer Price Index report. The average price per pound of butter was $3.14 for the week ending Oct. 29; around the same time last year it was under $2.

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How to help: The worst thing consumers can do is to panic buy butter. As supplies are tight – but not in an official shortage – collective panic buying could trigger a real shortage. If you find yourself in a pinch without butter for baking, there are substitutes that can work in some recipes, including pumpkin puree and applesauce.

For other uses, there are vegan butter alternatives like Earth Balance and Miyoko’s that taste just like real butter and aren’t like the plastic margarine alternatives of yesteryear. Most stores also carry imported butter brands such as Kerrygold, although they usually carry a premium price.

Are flaws the new normal?

The continued shortages may leave consumers wondering if these supply disruptions are the new normal. But experts see light at the end of the supply chain tunnel.

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has brought severe upheaval to supply chains as lockdown measures have curtailed production. The global supply chain is so tightly interconnected that untying these knots is still ongoing.

As the blockades were lifted, demand for many products increased exponentially, but supplies struggled to keep up. The war in Ukraine is exacerbating these problems by reducing the amount of commodities used in the production process, including oil.

This perfect storm of misfortune 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 Pressure Index suggests that these pressures are beginning to return to pre-Covid levels.

Supply chain disruptions are expected to return to “normal” in 2023, according to Bloomberg, although this recovery will vary by industry and region.

For now, consumers should expect the shortage to remain a part of everyday life for the foreseeable future.


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