During the first period Covid-19 pandemic, the most terrifying news was about the lack of enough ventilators for the most affected patients. After that, countries started to face challenges to stock and supply other requirements such as masks, Hand sanitisers as well as air-purifiers because the borders were quickly shut, creating a race to get personal protective equipment as soon as possible. As time went by, the necessary products started to be manufactured locally, meeting the demand for every item in need, from face shields to thermometers, except for medical gloves, which is one key element for self protection in many health-related scenarios.
It is important to keep in mind that there are many markets requiring these gloves. First and foremost, we have the healthcare sector, which uses them as medical and dental supplies, being an essential part of their Personal Protection Equipment. Tattoo artists, mechanics, nails and salon artists, gastronomic employees and food servers, as well as general people who use them for several home-chores. All of these add up to the total demand and should therefore be considered.
The crisis in numbers
Nitrile gloves are widely standardized at hospitals because they have important attributes, including that they protect against dangerous chemicals and are hypoallergenic properties. So, given that the demand exceeds the supply capability, prices have increased as never before. To illustrate with an example, pre-pandemic prices for a 100-gloves box was around 3 dollars, and the current price is about 32 dollars. One thing to consider is the increased demand of nitrile disposable gloves, now the requirements are 45% more globally since the beginning of the pandemic, which is equal to a shortage of 214 billion units. As it is evident, while the demand detonated incredibly, the supply is growing at a slow rate, creating a collapse in the market.
While these days glove manufaturers are producing to full capacity and making a great effort coordinating operations across the globe, the elevated glove demand has continued to surpass the total amount of supplied items. The availability of specialized workforce has diminished amid health and government-established restrictions, adding constraints and costs related to production. Now, manufacturing facilities must incur in extra expenses such as covid tests and protective surfaces in different areas, aiding social distancing, which more or less directly affects all employees within companies. Another problem is the lack of molds, which are necessary to produce the gloves. Unlike other machinery or tooling, molds are much more expensive and the lead time is usually longer.
A glimpse into 2022
This critical situation is far from getting to an end, the global shortage of nitrile gloves is expected to continue, according to some forecasts based on the availability of resources. The problem will continue until june 2022, if not more. Although manufacturers are in fact increasing their capacity levels, this will more likely not be enough for the current demand.
There have been people commercializing these disposable nitrile gloves, serving as third-party dealers but charging a disproportionate amount of money. It is also possible to finance the purchase of this product but it is required to pay much more on top of the already high price.For this reason, plus the mentioned above, nitrile gloves’ prices have been increasing dramatically.