Heat waves and high energy prices leave Spain on thin ice

By Marco Trujillo and Silvio Castellanos

MADRID (Reuters) – Ice cream is a hot commodity in Spain, with supermarkets limiting the amount people can buy and bars running out of cubes for sangrias and cocktails due to scorching heat waves and high prices for energy.

At the start of the year, ice cream makers held back from producing their usual supplies due to soaring electricity bills and uncertainty about summer demand following the COVID pandemic.

But tourism has rebounded to coincide with one of Spain’s hottest summers on record, with a third straight heat wave likely to be declared this week.

Scorching temperatures, coupled with a resurgence of socializing in cities and towns across the country, mean ice cream is in high demand.

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Ricardo Blasco, owner of one of Madrid’s oldest ice cream makers, Blasco Ice, said his electricity bills had risen 50-60% since the start of this year and he had delayed the start of production from March to May to partially offset the increased costs.

His factory operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but is unable to increase production further. Blasco says the worry of letting down customers who call every day asking for more keeps him awake at night.

“It’s hard not being able to please everyone even if you want to,” he said. “We are really doing everything we can.”

Empty supermarket freezer shelves where bags of ice should be are now common across Spain, with consumers turning to petrol stations and small corner shops for supplies.

Mercedes Nieto, owner of a bar in Madrid’s trendy Chueca district, said when her usual dispenser ran out of ice cream, she looked for more at a local Chinese store which had raised prices, as well as supermarkets , but they were exhausted.

“If this continues, we’re going to have real problems keeping a cold drink store open,” she told Reuters as she tossed mojitos.

Some supermarkets, including Spain’s biggest retailer Mercadona, have limited sales to five bags per person. Another channel, Consum, only allows two.

“Increased demand due to high temperatures leads to hoarding,” a Mercadona spokesperson said.

(Reporting by Marco Trujilo and Silvio Castellano, additional reporting by Jon Nazca and Aislinn Laing, writing by Emma Pinedo. Editing by Jane Merriman)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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