BREAKING NEWS : Police investigating woman's death at Lake James home after homicide ruling Full Story
SEVERE WX : Flash Flood Watch View Alerts

Supply chain interrupted: Here's everything you can't get now

Chicken, lumber, microchips, gas, steel, m...

Posted: May 9, 2021 12:30 PM
Updated: May 10, 2021 11:49 AM

Chicken, lumber, microchips, gas, steel, metals, chlorine and ketchup packets: What do they all have in common? They're all (nearly) impossible to find.

Shortages are popping up across the supply chain as the pandemic messes with shipping, demand, supply and all the other levers of the global economy.

Here's what's hard to get, why and for how long, according to CNN Business' writers.

Chicken

The fried chicken wars are putting a strain on the poultry population. Major chains, including KFC, Buffalo Wild Wings and Wingstop, are "paying steep prices" for chicken and suppliers are having trouble keeping up demand because of difficulties attracting workers, the Wall Street Journal reported this week.

That's proving to be a problem for KFC: Its revamped chicken sandwich is selling twice as well as its predecessor and becoming too popular to meet demand. Interest in the product, along with tight chicken supply, has made keeping pace with customers' orders the "main challenge" for KFC as it enters the second quarter, according to Yum CEO David Gibbs.

Some restaurants removed chicken tenders and Nashville Hot flavored chicken items from menus at some restaurants because of limited supply, WSJ reported.

Chlorine

Summer is around the corner, but anyone looking forward to a refreshing dip in the pool to cool off may be in for a big "shock." A chlorine shortage may make it more difficult for pool owners to buy the sanitizing tabs.

Chlorine supplies are running low due to a fire at a chemical plant in Louisiana last August that was damaged by Hurricane Laura. As a result, prices for tabs have skyrocketed. A quick look at Amazon shows that a 50-pound bucket of 3-inch chlorine tablets from the In the Swim brand now costs as much as $169.99, about double the normal cost.

"The extent of the chlorine shortage is still unknown," said B&B Pool and Spa Center, a Chestnut Ridge, New York-based retailer, on its website.

What's clear is that pool owners should consider stocking up sooner rather than later. "With regard to retail pricing, it is a fact that we are seeing increases across the industry," said Michael Egeck, CEO of pool supplies company Leslie's, during a February earnings conference call.

Computer chips

In the market for a new car, smartphone or washing machine this year? A global shortage of computer chips could mean you have to wait a while — and pay more.

A growing number of manufacturers around the world are having trouble securing supplies of semiconductors, delaying the production and delivery of goods and threatening to push up the prices paid by consumers.

Several factors are driving the crunch, which was initially concentrated in the auto industry. The first is the pandemic, which plunged the global economy into recession last year, upending supply chains and changing consumer shopping patterns. Car makers cut back orders for chips while tech companies, whose products were boosted by lockdown living, snapped up as many as they could.

The shortage is going from bad to worse, spreading from cars to consumer electronics. With the bulk of chip production concentrated in a handful of suppliers, analysts warn that the crunch is likely to last through 2021.

Gas

Millions of people stuck at home for more than a year are expected to hit the road for much-needed post-pandemic vacations this summer. But good luck finding gas.

It's not that there's a looming shortage of crude oil or gasoline. Rather, it's the tanker truck drivers needed to deliver the gas to stations who are in short supply.

Between 20% to 25% of tank trucks in the fleet are parked heading into this summer due to a paucity of qualified drivers, according to the National Tank Truck Carriers, the industry's trade group.

"We've been dealing with a driver shortage for a while, but the pandemic took that issue and metastasized it," said Ryan Streblow, the executive vice president of the NTTC. "It certainly has grown exponentially."

Gas prices, which typically rise at the start of the summer as seasonal regulations take effect — requiring the more expensive "summer blend" of gasoline needed to combat smog — are also rising.

The national average price of regular gas already stands at an average of $2.94 a gallon, up more than 60% from a year ago when prices and demand were bottoming out. The national average could surpass $3 a gallon this summer, and even get higher if any hurricanes hit the Gulf Coast or if there are any other disruptions to supply, such as a refinery fire.

Ketchup

Shortages of ketchup — specifically in packets that often come with your to-go order — started popping up around the country last summer, and the plot has thickened.

How did this happen? It started with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discouraging traditional, dine-in service at restaurants and suggesting more pandemic-friendly options like delivery and takeout instead.

Suddenly, restaurants coast to coast were packing up entrees, side dishes and cold beverages for a steady string of people working from home swirling past in their cars. Those customers expected condiments. So those traditional restaurants jumped into direct competition with fast food places, which had also shut down their dining rooms and upped their orders for ketchup packets.

Demand and prices went up, and supply went down. Heinz, the biggest ketchup producer in the country, is at the epicenter of the problem and taking steps to address it. The company recently announced "a 25% increase in production, totaling 12 billion ketchup packets...a year."

Lumber

As the pandemic crushed the US economy last spring, sawmills shut down lumber production to brace for a housing slump. The slump never arrived and now there isn't enough lumber to feed the red-hot housing market.

The shortage is delaying construction of badly needed new homes, complicating renovations of existing ones and causing sticker shock for buyers in what was already a scorching market.

Random-length lumber futures hit a record high of $1,615 on Tuesday, a staggering sevenfold gain from the low in early April 2020. That's a big deal because lumber is the most substantial product that home builders buy.

The good news is that industry executives expect lumber production to catch up with demand — eventually. Samuel Burman, an assistant commodities economist, predicted in a recent note to clients that there will be a "sharp fall" in lumber prices over the next 18 months.

Metals

As countries switch to green energy, demand for copper, lithium, nickel, cobalt and rare earth elements is soaring.

But they are all vulnerable to price volatility and shortages, the International Energy Agency warned in a report published this week, because their supply chains are opaque, the quality of available deposits is declining and mining companies face stricter environmental and social standards.

Limited access to known mineral deposits is another risk factor. Three countries together control more than 75% of the global output of lithium, cobalt and rare earth elements.

The Democratic Republic of Congo was responsible for 70% of cobalt production in 2019, and China produced 60% of rare earth elements while refining 50% to 70% of lithium and cobalt, and nearly 90% of rare earth elements. Australia is the other power player.

In the past, mining companies have responded to higher demand by increasing their investment in new projects. But it takes on average 16 years from the discovery of a deposit for a mine to start production, according to the IEA. Current supply and investment plans are geared to "gradual, insufficient action on climate change," it warned.

Steel

Steel is just the latest shortage to hit the US economy as it recovers from a pandemic that scrambled supply chains and set off sharp shifts in demand.

Much like lumber, the steel industry was caught off guard by the rapid recovery in demand that began last summer — especially in the auto industry. "All of a sudden people were buying lots of cars," said Tanners, the Bank of America analyst.

And it took time for America's aging steel mills to resume the production they had sharply cut at the onset of the pandemic. Steel inventories shrank rapidly and shipments were delayed, just as steel buyers began ordering more than usual.

The good news, for steel buyers at least, is that analysts say all of the US steel production capacity that was idled during the pandemic has returned.

-- CNN Business' Chris Isidore, Paul R. La Monica, Matt Egan, Tom Foreman, Charles Riley and Hanna Zlady contributed to this report.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 752108

Reported Deaths: 13816
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1033831790
Lake558431013
Allen41736693
St. Joseph37007565
Hamilton36617417
Elkhart29425461
Tippecanoe22938228
Vanderburgh22565400
Porter19369327
Johnson18486389
Hendricks17696317
Clark13233195
Madison13176344
Vigo12631253
LaPorte12429221
Monroe12226176
Delaware10970198
Howard10349224
Kosciusko9643121
Hancock8578147
Bartholomew8174157
Warrick7864156
Floyd7815180
Grant7248179
Wayne7164201
Boone6979103
Morgan6768141
Dubois6224118
Marshall6214116
Cass6024110
Henry5903110
Dearborn589878
Noble581688
Jackson509476
Shelby502396
Lawrence4753122
Gibson445595
Clinton443555
Harrison441775
DeKalb440385
Montgomery439890
Whitley406744
Huntington403381
Steuben400859
Miami395769
Jasper389155
Knox377691
Putnam373461
Wabash362383
Ripley347370
Adams345555
Jefferson336186
White332753
Daviess3035100
Wells295481
Decatur289892
Greene286885
Fayette284864
Posey274335
LaGrange273272
Scott270356
Clay267148
Washington246336
Randolph245183
Jennings235349
Spencer234531
Starke228159
Fountain222048
Sullivan214843
Owen212358
Fulton204043
Jay201032
Carroll193820
Orange188255
Perry187237
Rush175926
Vermillion175344
Franklin170435
Tipton166646
Parke149616
Pike138334
Blackford136232
Pulaski120847
Newton114936
Brown104443
Benton102614
Crawford102516
Martin91815
Warren84115
Switzerland8158
Union72810
Ohio57911
Unassigned0424

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1109697

Reported Deaths: 20213
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1289521469
Cuyahoga1158802216
Hamilton814201251
Montgomery525861049
Summit484551006
Lucas43384824
Butler39098606
Stark33355930
Lorain25689506
Warren24612305
Mahoning22388602
Lake21219389
Clermont20138253
Delaware18892136
Licking16671225
Fairfield16589204
Trumbull16560483
Medina15618273
Greene15292248
Clark14244306
Wood13296200
Portage13254216
Allen11919239
Richland11611211
Miami10857225
Wayne9153225
Columbiana9039230
Muskingum8909135
Pickaway8664122
Tuscarawas8654251
Marion8649139
Erie8058165
Ashtabula7171179
Hancock6999133
Ross6948163
Geauga6850151
Scioto6540106
Belmont6159174
Union585049
Lawrence5741102
Jefferson5683159
Huron5554122
Sandusky5444126
Darke5420129
Seneca5350128
Washington5321109
Athens524460
Auglaize502487
Mercer487785
Shelby477095
Knox4573112
Madison444566
Ashland435997
Putnam4336104
Defiance432399
Fulton432274
Crawford4046110
Brown402761
Logan387678
Preble3859105
Clinton379266
Ottawa373581
Highland360266
Williams348578
Champaign344959
Guernsey325254
Jackson318454
Perry297350
Morrow291940
Fayette285750
Hardin275765
Henry273867
Holmes2703101
Coshocton269360
Van Wert247264
Adams243156
Pike242835
Gallia240850
Wyandot234756
Hocking220663
Carroll197548
Paulding176642
Meigs148540
Monroe136345
Noble136239
Harrison114138
Morgan110124
Vinton85717
Unassigned03
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
80° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 81°
Angola
Cloudy
79° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 80°
Huntington
Cloudy
78° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 79°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
80° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 81°
Van Wert
Partly Cloudy
83° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 83°
Daily rounds of showers and thunderstorms will increase the flood threat across northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events