MISSOURI — We just finished St. Patrick’s Day – and Memorial Day is several weeks away.

The 4th of July is even farther down the calendar – but the fireworks industry is already worrying about reduced supplies and higher prices.

It’s all tied into the coronavirus pandemic – everything from gangbuster sales last year to supply chain issues right now.

Think of dominoes. You might not associate that with fireworks – but Steve Houser does. “You have to imagine that the global shipping network is like this domino train.”

He’s the president of the National Fireworks Association and says the global pandemic has wrecked decades of finetuning the supply chain. “It’s like somebody came through with a broom and started sweeping out swaths of it at a time.”

The problem is getting his product – fireworks – from Shanghai to Joplin. Says Houser, “That’s a huge problem.”

It starts with delays clearing port in China, processing through the arrival port in California, and then rail delivery to Missouri. Houser adds, “Typically we’ll see fireworks within 30 – 40 days of them leaving Shanghia here – but now it can be anywhere from 60 – 70.”

Freight costs have skyrocketed, an extra $2 million for Houser’s warehouse alone. And exchange rates are getting worse. Houser says, “So it’s costing us more to buy the fireworks and it’s costing us a lot more to ship the fireworks.”

And that could make fireworks more scarce… and more expensive this summer. “This is not a problem that the fireworks companies created – it’s just a fact of life,” adds Houser.