GLOVE SUPPLY & DEMAND HAS REMAINED UNBALANCED
Signs of a nitrile glove shortage started in the year 2020 when the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic took its toll, creating an extreme unbalance in supply and demand. This unbalance has only worsened since then as the need for quality protective gloves grew as the virus cases surged.
It's most apparent when you evaluate the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile, where its pre-COVID nitrile glove count was close to 4 billion gloves, but was recently counted at only 72 million gloves, which is concerning. In addition to this, the overall current demand is 585 billions gloves a year according to market analysts. However current production can only make 370 billions gloves a year and new manufacturers for 2021 will only be able to make an additional 50 billion gloves, thus creating a shortfall of 165 billion gloves.
Below you will find a few specifics on the supply and demand issue that is currently taking place:
DEMAND - WHY IS THERE A HIGH NEED FOR NITRILE GLOVES IN 2021?
From the start of the pandemic last year, to the beginnings of 2021, through the current day, there have been many factors that have increased the need for disposable nitrile gloves. This is especially true due to the fact that this specific glove type is preferred over latex when protecting against COVID. Please see our article on Nitrile vs Latex Gloves - A Comprehensive Guide to obtain more information on the specifications of each glove.
Let's review three reasons the demand has surged:
1. All Medical Facilities Require Hand Protection
Because of the risk of contracting or spreading the virus, all medical professionals have been advised to wear hand protection - from hospitals to independent physician's offices. Those physicians who were already using gloves have noted that their consumption has gone up by two boxes a day.
2. COVID Vaccine Rollouts Elevated the Demand for Nitrile Gloves
Reliable gloves are needed when administering the COVID vaccine, and distribution has recently started. This has greatly increased the need for hand protection. Additionally, the vaccine rollout will start to speed up as the months go by and will bring about an even higher urgency for nitrile gloves.
3. Increased Glove Use in Various Industries
As mentioned, there has been an increased use in the medical industry, which for obvious reasons, is a priority. However, this leaves other industries falling short on their own glove supplies. What is left is being requested for frontline workers such as grocery store clerks, post offices, airline staff, various small businesses, and many others.
SUPPLY - WHAT'S CAUSING THE LOW NUMBERS
It's especially difficult for those who are in need of protective gloves when the traditional avenue of obtaining them falls short. Supply issues have occurred for the following reasons:
1. Limited Number of U.S. Nitrile Glove Manufacturers
There are very few companies that make nitrile gloves in the United States. This has never been an issue in the past, but due to the sudden increased demand for nitrile hand protection, many distributors who once ordered domestically were forced to seek out international manufacturers. However, these overseas facilities were already operating at full capacity before the pandemic. This didn't leave much room for additional operating hours to increase their output for the new high demand. The end result is that the supply the international manufacturers produced didn't meet the amount needed.
2. Largest Overseas Manufacturer Closed Facilities
Top Glove, one of the world's largest glove manufacturers located in Malaysia, was forced to close many of its facilities due to a COVID outbreak among its workers. In fact, over 2,000 employees had tested positive for the virus. The overall glove supply took a huge hit because of these closures.
3. Shortage of Labor, Capacity, and Raw Materials