First it was toilet paper, with the arrival of confinement; then the oil, when the invasion of the Ukraine broke out, and now it is the turn of the ice. The shortage of these small cubes, so appetizing, and even essential, in summer has reached Bizkaia, where some supermarkets have already begun to limit their purchase to one bag per person. The hospitality industry in the territory seems to be safe at the moment from keeping the ice buckets empty, since, in most cases, they have their own machines that produce the ice from which they are supplied. “It will be a very hard summer”, warn the main Biscayan distributors, because “there is no time to store and respond to current demand”. The lower production of ice by the industry in spring due to the rise in the cost of electricity, together with the successive heat waves and the outbreak of festive and musical events have combined to raise the alert in a sector that warns that the worst could be yet to come. The situation began to take shape last spring, since it is during the months of April and May when the industry begins to produce and store ice cubes in order to respond to the demand of the strong summer months, July and August. Due to the increase in costs, the usual quantities in other years were not stored. For each pallet of ice that they put in the refrigerator they pay three euros and another three to take them out, in addition to 50 cents for each day that they are stored. “That means that the price of ice multiplies by two or three, and that is why the companies saw that it was not worth it to store,” explains Fernando Plazas, general director of Procubitos Europe, the largest producer of ice cubes in the State. The arrival of spring, the first in two years without restrictions, brought with it a burst of social activity, such as festivals and leisure outings in general, which increased demand. The successive heat waves that started at the end of June did nothing but fuel what experts consider a perfect storm that could last until September. An example in figures: in Spain two million kilos per day are stored during those months and, in addition, another two are produced per day. All to meet a demand that is usually around four million kilos a day in summer. Today the demand has grown to 8 million a day, with hardly any stock stored and with the capacity to distribute only two million a day. “There is ice but less than what the market needs,” warns Plazas. “We have our own machines and that helps us a lot” Borja Hernández – Bar Aterpe Café The distributors in the historic territory have been significantly affected by the storage setback. In Bizkaia, one of the most important for local bars and restaurants is Cubibilbo. This company operates throughout the ice distribution network in Bizkaia and actively supplies in summer, due to local festivals and events. “It does not depend on the distributors but on the manufacturers,” explains Rosa Rodríguez, one of its managers. She confirms that the company is not in a favorable situation this summer. The distribution of the product is intimately linked to the previous months of storage, and by not counting on them, it is a “day-to-day job”. The demand at the state level is normally around 4 million kilos per day, but currently it has shot up to 8 million kilos per day The empty warehouses are something of a concern for the company. They indicate that “there is no stock” and that working on the go during this time is not easy at all. Rodríguez expresses that “there are no guarantees of supplies” and that supermarkets, gas stations and other local businesses constantly demand a solution to what they are experiencing. But they don’t have the answer. At the end of the day, it’s a factory problem, literally. Supermarkets are one of the main affected by this situation and some of them have already begun to take measures to deal with the imbalance in the supply of ice. For example, those of the Mercadona chain have already limited the sale of ice packs to one unit per person. HOSTELRY WITH OWN SUPPLY With an eventuality of these characteristics, it would not be illogical to think that the hotel sector is experiencing complicated circumstances. However, many establishments in this industry do not suffer from major complications with ice. “We have our own machines and that helps us a lot,” said Borja Hernández, owner of the Aterpe Café bar. He pointed out that it was common for local bars to have self-producing ice machines. This gives them more independence from distributors and ice factories for much of the year, in addition to reducing costs. The same thing happens in the Bar Plaza Gran Vía establishment. Its manager, Txema García, also has a machine to make ice, because “it’s the most normal thing, especially in summer.” Garcia admitted that he had heard news about the shortage of ice cubes in the sector, but his bar had not yet been affected. “I go to distributors more than anything in winter, but now, in summer, I have my own machine and it works very well for me,” Manu Iturregi, owner of the Residence Café, also commented. The renowned Bilbao hotelier has not been affected by this phenomenon either since, like his colleagues in the industry, he opts for his own machinery for ice production. “I go to distributors more than anything in winter, but now, in summer, I have my own machine and it works very well for me” Manu Iturregi – Residence Café In the words of the manager of the Association of Hoteliers of Bizkaia, Héctor Sánchez, the shortage of ice in the hospitality sector is definitely “a situation to be taken into account”, especially during the most anticipated week of the year by the people of Bilbao, Aste Nagusia. “I’m not saying it’s something that will affect us in the immediate future, but let’s wait and see how it all plays out in a few months.” Despite the many factors that had a negative impact this year on the industry, such as electricity, the weather and strong demand, Sánchez said that it is not a latent problem in the Biscayan leisure sector. “It is not that there is abundance, but there is not a critical situation in Bizkaia”, he concluded. For him, one of the most important things is the state of the local bars and restaurants. And, according to them, the guarantee of their own machine to produce ice is a card that plays a lot in their favor. he
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