Brace For Shortages

Columns - Salt

Numerous signs indicate everything could become harder to get before the start of Winter 2021-22, and this supply problem is not getting better.

August 27, 2021

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Several recent newsworthy developments reinforce my opinion that our supply problems are only getting worse. And the ability to procure foreign-sourced materials prior to the start of Winter 2021-22 is only becoming more difficult.

Let me connect the dots for you and in no particular order. The majority of the following points came from a variety of news outlets.

There is a very high probability of an Israel-Iran shooting war. Not just proxies, but straight out at each other. The late July Iranian drone attack on an Israeli oil tanker in international waters in the Gulf of Oman that killed the British Captain and Romanian first mate amped up Israel significantly. Obviously, a war in the Persian Gulf would have far reaching economic effects, and particularly so on oil with the Keystone Pipeline shut down. Would the Suez Canal remain open in a war?

China has widespread Corona virus throughout their ports, disrupting or closing many. So, consider all of the components in our everyday lives originating from China, and you begin to get a picture of the long-reaching impact. I worry about getting anything from steel cutting edges on plows to truck, pump, and applicator parts. Equipment employed in snow and ice management breaks and snow professionals need replacement parts, many of which come from or contain components manufactured in China.

Container congestion continues to worsen, prices are skyrocketing, and there is no end in sight.

The ocean shipping situation has driven up prices and limited vessel availability for bulk salt shipped by sea from anywhere on the planet.

The Morton buy-out has already disrupted salt in significant ways as 120 people from Morton’s HQ were canned recently and the new owner tries to find its footing with an explosion of business. It’s placing some very heavy-handed demands on the private market. For example, they are requiring 40 percent of your winter salt contract must be taken by Dec. 31 irrespective of weather and demand. Even if it doesn’t snow, contractors are required to take 40 percent of their “contract” by Dec. 31 and 80 percent by March 31 again no matter what the weather. While municipalities can store a lot of salt, this is not a big deal. However, most private contractors cannot stockpile big quantities, and they are going to get hit hard by this new policy.

I see a lot of potential trouble for our industry, and if there is a Middle East shooting war between Israel and Iran, then oil will go beyond out-of-sight in price and we could see allocations. Certainly, good times on the horizon (tongue in cheek).

Snow Magazine contributing editor Robert S. English is President of Chemical Solutions, Inc., Franklin, MA. You can reach him at