Many people remember the gasoline shortages of the 1970s, but not everyone may remember the other shortages during those years, at least some of which were traceable to the petroleum shortage. Not enough petrol meant rising gas prices and correspondingly higher prices on everything from food to manufactured goods. Anytime a “shortage” surfaced it was worth writing about. But who could have predicted a shortage of canning jars?
By ARTHUR FREDERICK
BANGOR, Maine (UPI) – And now, inflation fans, comes the Great Can Shortage.
If you thrilled to your chilly, oil-less house last winter, if you shuddered with excitement while waiting in line at your neighborhood gas station last spring, and if you quivered when meat prices went out of sight last summer, you’re just going to scream with pleasure when you try to put up those green beans from the garden this fall.
Walt Haueisen, , New England distributor for Ball Brothers Co., canning supply manufacturers, says there’s an acute shortage of canning jars this year, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better, in Maine and elsewhere.
Haueisen said the company, one of the nation’s largest, had to put strict allocations on production a year ago because of shortages in the tin plate industry. And because the rising cost of food caused many people to plant gardens this year, the demand for canning jars has sharply increased.
“The garden upsurge in the past several years has greatly increased demand,” said another spokesman for Ball Brothers, Vern Schranz. “There are people gardening and canning now who wouldn’t have dreamed of it before.”
There are other reasons for the shortage. Soda ash, used in manufacturing the glass jars, is now used by soap companies because they can no longer use phosphates. And commercial production of the jars gets priority over the manufacture of jars for home use.
Jars can be used year after year. But the glass rings and rubber seal rings must be replaced each time they are used, and guess what Ball Brothers has coming out of their ears?
“Right now we have more jars than lids,” Haueisen said. We sent a limited supply up to Maine Monday. Priorities there are based on the amount purchased in past seasons.”
“No state has delivery priorities but you will find many more vegetable gardeners in Maine than, say, Massachusetts,” he said.
Retailers in Maine have reported that they sell out of the canning jars hours after they arrive. And the price has gone up from around $1.50 to as high as 42.75.
The alternative to canning is freezing, but many people don’t own freezers. And besides, there have been reports of shortages of freezer bags this year.
“The only real alternative to canning is freezing, but several stores have even reported slight shortages of freezer bags,” said Mary Ellen Cunningham, home economics extension agent for Penobscot County. ”Also, if a family has no freezer, there is that expensive initial purchase.”
The result of all of this is that some of the vegetables planted in home gardens this spring will either be eaten fresh or left unharvested.
“If I can’t find jars and lids,” said one Maine gardener, “I’ll have to start giving my crops away.”