Average sales prices of disposable gloves, regardless of material type—nitrile, latex, and vinyl—are going up. Shortages of raw materials also constrain latex and nitrile production, which puts additional pressure on pricing.
The increased need for gloves worldwide continues to drive demand, due to both the COVID-19 pandemic and a greater general awareness of health, safety, and hygiene. Glove manufacturing’s inherent limitations—raw materials, labor, and capacity shortages—constrain supply.
With COVID-19 still increasing worldwide, and the coming flu season predicted to deliver another flurry of infections this fall and winter, industry estimates predict that we will not see a reprieve in pricing for at least the next six to nine months.
There are no quick fixes
Any legitimate vaccine or other relief methods (antivirals, plasma, etc.) are still months away. Even when they are broadly available, it will take additional months for their impact to cycle through society.
Glove manufacturers face several industry-specific challenges to maintaining a consistent supply of gloves. Due to multiple factors, gloves are not like other PPE—masks, gowns, or even sanitizer—which are much easier to produce in various locations with minimal startup costs.
First, there is a shortage of raw materials. While synthetic rubber is not naturally constrained, nobody expected to produce it at such increased volumes so fast. It will take months for the production of synthetic rubber to catch up.
Not a job just anyone can do
Second, labor shortages, especially in Southeast Asia, are limiting the expansion of glove production. Most employees at a glove factory require extensive training. In addition to some experience in chemistry, it requires specific expertise that, in many ways, makes it more of an art than a science. Many chemical variables involved in glove production take months, if not years, to master.
Third, factories cannot be built overnight, and production takes a long time to ramp up. Even if it were faster, the shortages of materials and labor would slow any efficiency gains. No one expects an increase in production capacity until the end of 2021 at the earliest.
With supply so constrained, we advise our clients to purchase any inventory available to them. Prices won’t get significantly lower in Q4 of 2020. Take the best deal you can find now from any reputable source.