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 is months away but the kinks in the supply chain have yet to unravel. Many industries face a mismatch of production capabilities and demand; Rampant inflation doesn’t help either.

As a result, consumers are running into shortages of products from paper to medicine—and these shortages can have a devastating impact on everyday life.

And although some experts hope that the supply chain can reach more “normal” levels next year, others caution against being too optimistic.

5 things that are currently facing shortage

1. Paper

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

When the Covid pandemic hit, life was forced indoors—and online. Demand for paper tanked, as did US production in response. Many paper mills have pivoted during the pandemic to produce packaging and cardboard to keep up with the new reliance on online shopping, resulting in a nearly 20% reduction in production capacity from 2019, according to commentary in ERA Forest Products Research in the Seattle Times.

But as the lockdowns eased, demand for paper products surged — and mills struggled to return to pre-pandemic production levels. Many of the mills that switched to packaging could not easily return to paper production.

Adding fuel to the fire is rising inflation, which makes paper production more expensive. Raw material costs to make paper have risen dramatically, pushing the price of paper up to 60%, according to Business Insider.

How to cope: 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. available. If you buy paper occasionally to fill your home printer, you may notice a price increase. Consider switching to a cheaper brand, if available. If you are someone who buys paper online, remember 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 see if you clicked the buy button during high prices.

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2. Diesel

US inventories of diesel and gasoline are currently suffering from tight supplies, according to CBS News. Several factors have contributed to the supply strain, including the war in Ukraine, refinery shutdowns, natural disasters and an explosion at a refinery in Philadelphia.

You may have heard that the US has 25 days worth of diesel left. But that does not mean that the country is about to run out; analysts pointed out that is far from the case. This alarming number is likely if every oil refinery in the country had to shut down immediately, which analysts say is out of the question.

How to cope: The best way to manage the current diesel shortage is to resist panic-buying; together, panic buying may further deplete the dwindling supply. The shortage may ease once demand cools, but when that will be difficult to pinpoint.

3. Certain Prescription Drugs

Drug manufacturers have problems keeping up with demands. 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: 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 rampant.
  • Adderall: The compounds used to make Adderall, a drug used to manage ADHD symptoms, are experiencing shortages.
  • Epinephrine Auto-Injector (EpiPen): This drug is used to treat severe anaphylactic allergic reactions.

How to cope: In some cases, unexpectedly stopping a prescription drug can lead to harmful health effects. Adderall, for example, is a stimulant—which means patients can experience severe withdrawal when they stop cold-turkey. If a medication you rely on is in short supply, ask your doctor or pharmacist if there are any substitutes for your prescriptions available.

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4. Baby Formula

Despite efforts from the federal government, the country continues to face a shortage of baby formula.

The shortage was caused by the temporary closure of a major formula plant in Michigan after contamination of some products caused bacterial infections in four of its infants, two of which died. The discovery also led to a recall of some formula made at the same plant, exacerbating an already depleted supply.

The Biden administration invoked the Defense Production Act to speed up production of the formula. Despite this, government officials stated in early November that “there is clearly a problem” in getting baby formula on the shelves and that it will take time to alleviate the shortage.

How to cope: Because every baby’s needs are different and every family has different resources, there is no blanket answer for how parents can cope with a lack of formula. The Department of Health and Human Services says that most babies are “just fine” with different brands of formula, as long as they are made from the same base.

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

5. Butter

We’re not in an official butter shortage—yet. But experts warn that butter supplies are running low ahead of the busy cooking and baking holiday season.

The biggest factor threatening the supply of butter is the production of milk, the main ingredient of butter. The number of dairy cows has decreased because it is more expensive to raise and keep them.

US butter production has fallen this year as a result, according to data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

A tight supply, and continued consumer demand, has made the cost of butter skyrocket nearly 27% annually, 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; at the same time last year, it was less than $2.

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How to cope: The worst move consumers can make is to start panic-buying butter. Because supplies are tight—but not in an official shortage—collective panic-buying can result in an actual shortage being triggered. If you find yourself in a pinch without butter for cooking, there are substitutes available in some recipes, including pumpkin puree and applesauce.

For other uses, there are vegan butter alternatives like Earth Balance and Miyoko’s, which taste like real butter and not like the plasticky margarine alternatives of years past. Most stores also carry imported brands of butter such as Kerrygold, although they usually carry a premium price tag.

Are Disadvantages the New Normal?

Continued shortages may have 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 disruption to supply chains as measures to lock down production have been put in place. The global supply chain is so tightly interconnected that the knots take time to unravel.

When the lockdowns eased, demand for many products increased, but supplies struggled to keep up. The war in Ukraine has further exacerbated these issues by reducing many of the commodities used in the production process, including oil.

This perfect storm of misfortune caused the supply chain to recover at a snail’s pace—but it’s on the mend. Data from the New York Fed’s Global Supply Chain Pressure Index suggests that pressures are beginning to return to pre-Covid levels.

Supply chain disruptions are expected to return to “normal” by 2023, as Bloomberg reports, though that recovery will vary by industry and region.

For now, consumers should expect that disabilities will remain a part of everyday life for the foreseeable future.


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