Salt Shortage of 2014 May Continue

Be warned. If current trends continue, the professional snow and ice management industry is facing another salt crisis — limited availability and high prices — heading into Winter 2014-15.
Kevin Gilbride is Executive Director of the Accredited Snow Contractors Association and publisher of Snow Magazine.

Those who ignore the past are condemned to repeat it.

Now, I’m taking liberties with paraphrasing this popular quote, but I believe best illustrates my next point.

Be warned: We are heading into another salt shortage.

Let me explain. For the past few weeks I have been on the road tending to both ASCA and Snow Magazine business and I’ve had countless discussions with a variety of people within the professional snow and ice management industry.

One consistent topic of conversation has salt, and the particular thread has been the impending shortage heading into Winter 2014-15.

Many of you are well aware of the shortage on the second half of the 2013-14 season, which was a particularly aggressive winter.

Talking to the experts there are a number of factors that contributed to last season’s salt short — a “perfect storm” of events, if you will. However, one of the overriding contributors is that the industry was emerging from a low-snow/mild winter cycle. Because of that, municipalities had amassed salt reserves and, heading into Winter 2013-14, weren’t purchasing salt in any great quantities. As a result, salt suppliers we not bringing as much out of the ground.

In fact, I’ve heard from sources that some cities with overages in salt from the past two years, went to zero supply by season’s end. This means the salt companies need to restock from scratch.  And my sources tell me that some contractors trying to get out in front of this have been told from their suppliers that there will be no salt this year.

In short: an aggressive winter hits… salt supplies dwindle… price skyrocket… commercial contractors get shorted. Classic supply and demand. It’s a scenario we’ve experienced in the past and as recently as the last cycle that transitioned from mild winters into and aggressive season. But as of last week, I have heard that once government contracts have been fulfilled, and then distributors, there will be no salt for contractors.

Frankly, I do not know how this will play out, but you need to be aware that this shortage exists and, in its current state, it will impact your ability to do business this winter. If you are not thinking about salt right now, then you are likely behind the eight ball for this coming season.

We’ll be keeping close track of this salt situation. So stay tuned.