It’s hot and a lot of people are partying – so the need for ice cubes is increasing. It’s said that soon there won’t be any more in Spain
TV station Antena 3 visits a fishmonger on Monday morning. The fish are laid out on planed ice. The reporter asks: “Have you noticed shortages or rising prices?” – “No, nothing like that. Since we don’t work with ice cubes…” – “Are you afraid that your ice could run out?” – “No. In the moment not. I don’t think so.” At the bottom of the screen, the broadcaster fades in: “Ice is missing!” With an exclamation mark.
Nothing is ever missing in the wonderful world of capitalism, and when something is missing, the excitement is great. Ice cubes are getting scarce in Spain. This is true. And there is still no all-clear. “Things will get a little worse by mid-August,” says Miguel Ángel Vázquez, whom Antena 3 calls the “Spanish Cube King” because he runs Spain’s largest ice cube company, Procubitos. It’s having trouble keeping up with the demand for ice cubes. Just like the other ice cube makers. Whoever the Spanish media asks, the answer is always the same: yes, it’s difficult this year.
The cause of the shortage can be explained as follows: ice cube manufacturers do not produce their ice cubes on demand, but in stock. Almost two-thirds of consumption falls on a third of the year, the months of May, June, July and August. The clever ice cube maker pre-freezes in winter and spring for summer. But he doesn’t have a crystal ball that tells him how sales will develop. In the past two years, business has been sluggish due to the corona crisis, and in winter it was not yet possible to foresee what it would look like this summer. In addition, energy prices rose. The ice cube manufacturers preferred to be careful: they didn’t want to be left with any ice stocks.
Then summer came and with it the tourists. And the post-corona celebration mood. And a never-ending heat wave in which the thermometer does not drop below 30 degrees before midnight. Anyone celebrating needs ice cream, and anyone on vacation needs ice cream too, especially with these temperatures. So the ice cubes were running out. At least in the factories.
The people in Spain hardly notice anything about it. Well, every once in a while there are no bags of ice cubes on the supermarket shelves, which can be annoying, especially for those who run coffee shops and stock up on ice cubes there. The more professional establishments have ice machines or long-term contracts with their suppliers.
A Madrid restaurant operator told the online newspaper eldiario.es last week that a 2-kilo bag of ice cubes always cost 75 cents in the supermarket, “and now it costs two euros in some shops”. That may be true. In most supermarkets, the bags are still available for 75 cents. Only at Corte Inglés, the department store, are they more expensive. But everything is always more expensive there.
So instead of scarcity, the main thing at the moment is the fear of scarcity. Because we live in the wonder world of capitalism, the manufacturers try as hard as they can. “We don’t even take a break to sleep,” says Alba Aparicio, spokeswoman for the ice cube company Hielos Estrella, to the Efe news agency. So the ice is coming. And when things get tight, the locals help each other out, writes the local newspaper Diario de Mallorca.
August 15th is the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, when all of Spain is one big festival. It is possible that an ice cube is missing here and there. After that, supply and demand should match up quite well again.