The almost empty ice store at the Hicosol factory. / salvador salas

It's summer and everyone wants cold drinks - but there's a shortage of ice in Spain

Businesses say they can't afford to produce and store vast quantities of ice because the electricity costs have risen so much. As a result, some supermarkets have started to limit how many bags customers can buy

IGNACIO LILLO Malaga

Bar and restaurant owners across Spain are pleased that business is booming again after two years of the pandemic, but now they are facing another problem: a shortage of ice this summer, at a time when demand is at its highest.

The reason, says Manuel Bustos, who owns the Hicosol ice factory on El Viso industrial estate in Malaga, is mainly due to increasing costs. “Electricity is sky high now; we used to pay 40 euros per megawatt and now it costs 300 euros,” he says, and in addition the price of plastic has increased and so has transport because of rising fuel prices.

Summers have been getting even hotter in recent years, and the season begins earlier because the demand for ice starts to increase in April. “Everything has happened at once and it has been causing chaos,” says Bustos.

This Malaga factory produces around 80,000 bags of ice cubes a day, but he says that even if they were able to produce twice as much it would sell. “Lots of bar owners are ringing me up because they need more. We are trying to produce as much as we can, but we just can’t keep up with the demand,” he says.

Some supermarkets are limiting sales of ice. / SUR

The shortage is already affecting some supermarkets, and some have limited how much ice customers can buy. Bars and restaurants are having to buy from them as well, even though it is more expensive, because so many customers want ice in their drinks.

Working flat out. / salvador salas

A fair price

Manuel Bustos is also the president of the Association of Ice Producers in Spain. He says the sector needs to restructure itself and a fair price needs to be paid for ice. “It’s not logical for a cup of white coffee to be more expensive than a bag of ten litres of frozen water, packaged and distributed,” he insists. His factory employs 50 people at this time of year, and the equipment is working flat out.

José Amador Luque, one of the distributors for Hielo Pingüino in Malaga, whose factory is in Granada, says he can only remember this situation arising once before in his 35 years in the sector. “Since June, demand has kept increasing. The supermarkets are selling out in half an hour,” he says.

In fact, his firm supplies some bars with ice in the morning and in the afternoon they are asking for more. The company normally sells about 1,500 bags a day, and 3,000 a day at weekends, but now they are having to ration supplies as well.

“Clients are asking for 200 bags and sometimes we can only give them 70. We have to ask them to be understanding,” says Luque.

He also says the problem this year is that the producers have not been able to stock their storerooms because the electricity costs so much, and warns that some factories would end up paying 200,000 euros a month and just can’t afford it.