In a development reminiscent of that time Santa Claus nearly canceled Christmas, the fireworks industry is warning that this year’s Independence Day festivities are in jeopardy.
The National Fireworks Association (NFA), whose more than 1,200 members manufacture, distribute and sell things that sparkle, screech and/or go bang, warned that the problem is — you guessed it — yet another supply chain issue exacerbated by the pandemic. In a letter sent to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg this week, NFA noted that shipping time from China (where most fireworks are made) to the United States has doubled to 60 days.
And even after they arrive on our shore, it now takes close to 21 days to unload a container vessel at the Long Beach, Calif., port. “All these obstacles and challenges are hampering our ability to put product on the shelf for our seasonal small business owners,” the association said.
The NFA’s letter noted that President Biden has taken dramatic steps to support the struggling restaurant industry. Separately, the White House ordered a supply chain review concerning semiconductors, pharmaceuticals and other products that generally don’t cause dogs to hide under beds.
“After signing the American Rescue Plan, President Biden addressed Americans in prime time and gave them hope that they could begin resuming to normalcy with small gatherings of friends and families by the Fourth of July,” the association wrote. “But the grave reality is that if many Americans expect to gather on the Fourth of July and celebrate our nation’s birthday with fireworks, as they normally would, they may be sorely disappointed.”
Well played, NFA.
The organization asked Buttigieg to “immediately examine our nation’s port and transportation infrastructure to see where the bottlenecks are, and immediately implement the changes necessary to streamline the system and return it to pre-COVID-19 conditions. If this is not done within the next few weeks, we fear that this year’s fireworks season will never take place.”
The transportation secretary did not immediately respond publicly to NFA’s plea. In a separate statement released today, his department made no mention of ports but noted that a smoothly operating transportation network is a high priority of the Biden administration. “The American Rescue Plan makes a historic investment in our transportation system, helping to keep workers on the job and get travelers to where they need to be,” Buttigieg noted. “The benefits of this package are already being felt — with airline workers tearing up furlough notices, Amtrak announcing expanded routes and critical assistance reaching those who are struggling during this pandemic.”
That’s all well and good, but where is Rudolph when we need him?
Reprint: Red Lantern Fireworks