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5 Things That Are Hard to Get Right Now (and Why)

Extreme weather and surging demand make some items elusive

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If you’ve noticed that some grocery store shelves still seem a bit bare, you’re not alone. Extreme weather is wreaking havoc on global crop production, and the ongoing war in Ukraine has prevented use of its ports, further snarling the international distribution of goods. These are just a couple of the conditions that have resulted in ongoing supply problems that are frustrating producers, retailers and consumers alike.

​​Here’s a look at some of the items that can currently be difficult to find, along with ones that you might want to stock up on for later.

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spinner image a bowl of white rice on a black background
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1. Rice

Rice is the primary staple food for more than half the world’s population, but growing and distributing it has become much more challenging as of late.

According to Ken Spigarelli, managing director of KPMG Advisory, the world’s rice supply has been affected by a “combination of bad weather in rice production areas such as Pakistan and China and the ongoing war in Ukraine.” 

Sabrin Chowdhury, head of commodities analysis at Fitch Solutions, explains that the bad weather affecting production includes the effects of El Niño. During El Niño, Pacific trade winds weaken, pushing warm water east toward the west coast of the Americas. This leads to drier-than-normal conditions in Southeast Asia, which would further decrease rice production in the region. 

As a result of these factors, global rice prices have been rising since early last year, including an increase of 14 percent since last June. Currently, India is the world’s top rice exporter, and to keep its domestic prices from escalating, the country enacted an export ban in July on non-basmati white rice. 

All of these factors mean rice and rice products could become more difficult to find — and more expensive — in the coming months. 

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2. Tequila

Last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there was an increased demand for tequila from Mexico, while imports of whiskey and vodka decreased. 

Sadly, tequila now seems to be a victim of its own popularity. 

Spigarelli explains that agave, tequila’s key ingredient, can take almost a decade to grow, so it’s difficult to rapidly increase the supply. And although agave is grown in various regions around the world, it is native to Mexico.

In addition to the time it takes to grow agave, says Spigarelli, the world’s supply is currently dependent on small-scale growers who are having a hard time responding to the increased demand. “Farmers are experiencing challenges around labor shortages, cost of packaging, shipping issues, and the effects of climate change and droughts,” he says. 

spinner image Bottles of Huy Fong Foods Sriracha sauce are displayed on a supermarket shelf

3. Sriracha

Tracking down certain brands of the bright-red hot sauce known as sriracha remains a challenge. 

In the past couple of years, climate change-induced crop shortages have crippled northern Mexico’s harvest of chili peppers, which sriracha’s producers use to make their distinctive and much-loved hot sauce. 

In April 2022, the leading sriracha producer, Huy Fong Foods, announced that drought conditions affecting the quality of chili peppers had made it impossible to produce its sauce. Reportedly, the company is still struggling with agricultural problems coupled with supply chain issues, and the brand’s sriracha remains out of stock at many grocery stores.  

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spinner image close up of someone holding a bottle of oil in a grocery aisle
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4. Cooking oils 

Certain cooking oils may also be harder to find in the coming months. 

Continued international droughts have affected crops and thus oil output, including olive oil, Spigarelli says. “Heat waves in Spain are affecting the supply of olives,” he adds. 

Indonesia is one of the world’s largest suppliers of palm oil for cooking and commercial use, and Spigarelli notes that the Indonesian government last year halted export of the product, potentially making it more difficult to find. 

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5. Champagne 

Champagne production has taken a hit from a confluence of global events and one incorrect estimation: The trade association for champagne producers in France (Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne, or CIVC) told its members to grow fewer grapes because sales had been lagging, and the group expected the downward trend to continue. 

“[The CIVC] set a lower production cap for champagne this year as they forecasted less demand due to a reduction in sales from previous years,” Spigarelli says. However, the opposite was true, and there has actually been a sharp increase in demand for champagne. 

Harking back to Economics 101, when demand far exceeds supply, there are shortages. And the disparity between supply and demand isn’t the only problem. Spigarelli says that a drought affected crop production in early 2022, and a global glass shortage (no glass, no champagne bottles) is compounding the issue.

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Other Items to Watch

KPMG Advisory Managing Director Ken Spigarelli explains why these grocery store staples have also been affected by weather and other global factors:

Sugar. “India decided not to raise its quota on sugar exports, and other countries that produce sugar, such as Europe, Brazil, Thailand, Mexico, Pakistan and China, are facing a low supply of the product.”

Lettuce. Lettuce produced in California supplies much of the U.S., and [last year, crops were] struck with a virus, decimating up to 75 percent of the local supply of romaine and iceberg varieties.”

Oranges. Weather conditions have resulted in “a 51 percent reduction in orange production in Florida/the U.S. South.”

Tomato products: “California droughts are causing a shortage in tomato crops.”

Editor's note: This article was originally published on May 2, 2022. It has been updated to reflect new information. 

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