Have You Noticed There’s a Paint Shortage?

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Amid global shortages of paint and painting supplies, artists are finding it harder and costlier to get the pigments they want. As with other industries, paint manufacturers worldwide have been grappling with supply chain and personnel issues since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. But another preventable “force majeure” took the worsening shortages and price increases of art supplies to another level: extreme climate disasters around the globe.

The pandemic has created a labor shortage of plant workers and drivers that has clogged up supply chains in the face of rising demand for paint, especially for construction and home improvement projects. To make matters worse, the February freeze in Texas slowed the production of petroleum, a critical ingredient for paint. This has caused shortages of three of the most popular colors: Chantilly lace, tricorn black, and green smoke. A fire in a BASF polymer plant in Germany in March affected production through much of the summer in Europe. And in Canada, wildfires over the summer, caused by scorching and dry weather, severely affected the linseed crop, creating significantly higher prices for linseed oil.

“For art materials, the entire industry has been battling supply chain issues across the board, from acrylic resin supply, linseed oil supply, additives, pigments, bottles, and tubes as well as staffing shortages due to the pandemic,” a spokesperson for Golden Artist Color, a New York-based paint maker, told Hyperallergic. “Some of these challenges were not caused by COVID, but by natural and man-made disasters,” the spokesperson continued, adding that the confluence of these different factors has created the “perfect storm.”

According to Golden, pigment companies have dropped whole lines of products like the “very popular” Quinacridone Golds and Browns. The company also pointed to shortages of highly-demanded blue pigments like Indanthrone Blue and Ultramarine Blue.

Speaking with Bloomberg, a representative of the Dutch paint maker Akzo Nobel reported similar shortages in blue pigments, which have caused “complete chaos” in the industry.

“To make paint you would need between 50 and 60 ingredients,” the company’s spokesperson told Bloomberg. “Some additives are difficult to get.”

According to Bloomberg, the Dutch company is also facing difficulty sourcing the tinplate used to make metal cans, which forced it to ship empty pots from other countries for filling. It also reported a supply chain problem with some exterior wall paints because an additive needed to make them waterproof is unavailable.

According to Akzo Nobel’s third-quarter results, the cost of raw materials and other additives needed to make paint increased by over $323 million compared to 2020. As a result, prices of the company’s products have spiked 9% over the past year, the Insider reports. 

Facing similar shortages of raw materials, the Ohio–based paint manufacturer Sherwin-Williams alerted investors in September that paint prices are expected to continue rising over the next few months.

“The persistent and industry-wide raw material availability constraints and pricing inflation we have previously reported have worsened, and we do not expect to see improved supply or lower raw material pricing in our fourth quarter as anticipated,” said the company’s CEO John Morikis on a call to investors, according to CNN.

Golden, which has recently announced transferring 100% of the company’s ownership to its employees, added that COVID-related safety precautions in its facilities have also slowed down its ability to meet customers’ needs.

“As people had to stay home with COVID or quarantined because of close contact, childcare issues, or support of elderly parents, we have continued to deal with staff shortages,” the company said. “All of these factors have led to lack of productivity, even with the enormous effort of all our staff working overtime for months to try to keep up.”

Though not foreseeing any improvement of these chronic supply chain problems in the near future, the company vowed to continue to privilege staff safety while working to “weather the storm.”

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