Pandemic And Suez Canal Incident Blamed For Bizarre Garden Gnome Shortage

As you no doubt remember, one of the biggest stories that somehow managed to fascinate, horrify, and amuse the world all at once last month concerned the Ever Given cargo ship running aground and blocking Egypt's Suez Canal.

As we had previously discussed, this week-long affair left 300 ships stranded on either side, cost the Egyptian government $14 million per day, and disrupted $9 billion per day in global trade. These staggering effects have a lot to do with why — as the CBC reported — Egyptian authorities have since impounded the vessel and are demanding $900 million before it can leave the country.

But elsewhere in the world, industries depending on overseas trade faced supply issues that persist to the present day. And bizarrely, it's also had some negative consequences for one of the United Kingdom's most unexpected shortages.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns that resulted in various nations including the U.K. have devastated many industries, they've also made others more successful than ever.

As the BBC reported, garden centers in the region have experienced a boom with some figures suggesting they've become 97% busier than they were in 2019.

Speaking to the broadcaster, Ian Byrne from Highfield Garden World in Whitminster said, "Every day has been like a bank holiday. That's good but it's definitely causing some issues because it's not just English garden centres that are booming, it's all across Europe, so it's causing issues with supply."

And a strange by-product of that spike in demand has been a massive upswing in garden gnome sales.

As The Guardian reported, the past two seasons have seen plastic, stone, and concrete gnomes rise in popularity to such a degree that garden centers are now struggling to secure any.

In Byrne's words, "We haven’t seen a gnome in six months now, unfortunately."

And while it's hardly a consequence of the Suez Canal blockage that most people would consider, the incident has made efforts to restock gnome supplies all the more difficult.

As Garden Centre Association chief executive Iain Wylie told the BBC, "With goods arriving from abroad, garden centres were affected by the ship getting stuck in the canal as much as any other industry. Garden furniture, ornaments, of which gnomes would be some, being stuck in containers trying to come over here."

This doesn't seem specific to the U.K. either as Ikea has recently reported similar problems in securing garden furniture due to the same combination of high demand and shipping issues.

But even if all the shipping delays were resolved tomorrow, that would still leave a situation where garden centers have to contend with suppliers drying up.

For Byrne and others in situations similar to his, this has entailed searching far and wide for any suppliers who could possibly cough up some gnomes.

So far, he's been in contact with candidates throughout Europe and his inquiries have even started to extend as far as China.

As for those working in garden centers that haven't noticed any strain on the gnome supply chain yet, Wylie warned that they likely will before long.

As he put it, "Most garden centres haven’t noticed – although they will. We’re facing a perfect storm of lockdown, everyone being stuck at home, and one thing people can do is their gardening."

h/t: BBC, The Guardian

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