Supply chain subject To unusual shortages

Scott Moore, of Wholesome Conversions Poultry Farm, collects chicken eggs at his farm in Weirsdale. The supply of chickens has not been able to keep up with the recent demand as the economy recovers.

What do chicken, golf carts and lumber have in common? Not much — except they’ve all become harder to find in recent weeks. As the U.S. experiences an economic recovery a year following the COVID-19 pandemic, supply isn’t keeping up with demand for certain goods. Building materials, chicken and gasoline are just a few of the items causing concern of shortages and price increases nationwide. And in The Villages, golf carts and golf cart parts became scarce due to delayed shipments, affecting local golf cart dealers’ sales and service business. Factors such as manufacturing delays, production issues, labor shortages and cybersecurity attacks have been to blame for the supply chain disruptions being felt nationwide, statewide and locally involving an ever growing list of commodities.

Chicken

Supply chain disruptions are putting a strain on the chicken supply due to high consumer and restaurant demand.

It’s even had an impact on the small farmers that raise locally harvested chickens.

Until recently, Scott and Melanie Moore, co-owners of Wholesome Conversions Farm in Weirsdale, had their baby chicks shipped from a hatchery in Pennsylvania. But they switched suppliers when they only received 500 chicks from an order of 675.

“Since then, we switched to a supplier in south Georgia, they’re able to supply us with 675 baby chicks,” Scott said. “They hatch in the morning and Melanie picks them up in the afternoon.”

Demand for chicken has increased with consumption. In 2020, Americans ate 97.5 pounds of chicken per capita, up significantly from 82.8 pounds per capita in 2010 and 77.4 pounds per capita in 2000, according to the National Chicken Council.

Poultry processors are continuing to encounter labor, freight cost and supply issues, driving record prices of chicken wings, boneless thighs and boneless legs, according to U.S. Foods, a food service distributor.

But people seeking locally harvested chicken from the Moores’ farm should have little to no issues today. Changing suppliers helped not only address a shortage of chicks, but also reduced the rate of transit-related mortality of the chicks.

“We were probably at 20% previously, and now we’re at 5%, which is absolutely huge,” Scott said.

Golf Carts

Pandemic-related delays backlogged golf cart manufacturers, leading to longer-than-expected wait times for custom golf cart orders, said Jeffery Tutin, digital media manager with The Villages Golf Cars.

In addition, a shortage of components like tires and mirrors is delaying service, he said.

“Some of the stuff is coming in, but it’s just longer wait times than we’re used to,” said Tutin, who clarified that the waits could last at least one month.

Fortunately, consumers at The Villages Golf Cars are likely to find what they’re looking for. About 80% of what they’re ordering is coming in on time.

And with southward expansion increasing demand, a new location at Magnolia Plaza recently opened.

As for those needing to wait through extended delays, The Villages Golf Cars’ staff are working around the delays.

Those waiting for custom orders are able to use a build loaner at no extra cost while they wait for their order to be ready, Tutin said. Its loaner golf carts come from its rental fleet, which currently has about 500 vehicles.

And people awaiting service on their mirrors can have temporary circle convex mirrors put in while waiting for permanent LED mirrors, he said.

People looking to buy a golf cart or have their golf cart serviced should consider shopping now, Tutin said.

Lumber and Steel

Key materials such as lumber and steel are increasing in price as demand outpaces supply.

The increasing cost of lumber — at more than $1,500 per thousand board feet, quadruple where it was in April 2020 — has effects on residential construction, homebuyers and renters, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

The group stated that the cost of lumber alone is adding about $36,000 to the average price of a new home.

“There is a disconnect between lumber supply and housing demand,” NAHB First Vice Chairman Jerry Konter said in a statement. “U.S. sawmill output increased 3.3% in 2020. But over the same period, single-family construction increased 12% to almost 1 million housing starts, and the remodeling market expanded 7%.”

Production failing to meet demand for materials is the root cause of the “unsustainable” increases, Konter said.

As for steel, the hot-rolled coil index was up to about $1,650 as of Wednesday, according to CME Group, a global markets company. An S&P Global Platts poll found 44% of people expect steel prices to increase further or remain high over the next six months.

Gasoline

While the panic buying of gasoline from last month’s Colonial Pipeline shutdown is over, concerns remain that more gasoline shortages may occur because of high pent-up travel demand.

Retail gasoline prices on Memorial Day weekend were the highest for the holiday in three years, as well as 66 cents per gallon more than what drivers paid at the start of 2021, said Mark Jenkins, spokesman for AAA, the Auto Club Group.

Last month, Jenkins said that Florida’s gasoline supply — about 90% of which comes from cargo ships — was in good shape and that any shortages at the retail level were occurring because of panic buying.

But other factors could contribute to future strains on supply, including a shortage of fuel tanker drivers that haul gasoline to retail convenience stores where consumers fuel their vehicles.

Hurricane season, which began Tuesday, also may play a role, especially if a storm reaches the Gulf Coast, Jenkins said.

“Although pump prices normally increase in the spring and decline in the fall, summertime gas prices are often volatile and unpredictable,” he said. “One big reason for that is hurricane season. If a hurricane strikes the Gulf Coast refinery region, pump prices can rise due to concerns about gasoline supplies.”

Senior writer Michael Salerno can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5369, or michael.salerno@thevillagesmedia.com.