Heatwaves and high energy prices leave Spain on thin ice

Mercedes Nieto prepares a mojito in her bar in Madrid, Spain, August 4, 2022. REUTERS/Juan Medina

By Marco Trujillo and Silvio Castellanos

MADRID (Reuters) – Ice is a hot commodity in Spain, with supermarkets limiting how much people can buy and bars running low on cubes for sangrias and cocktails due to scorching heatwaves and high energy prices.

At the start of the year, ice makers held back from producing their usual stockpiles because of soaring power bills and uncertainty about summertime demand following the COVID pandemic.

But tourism has bounced back to coincide with one of Spain’s hottest summers on record, with a third successive heatwave likely to be declared this week.

The sizzling temperatures, coupled with the resurgence of socialising in cities and villages across the country, means ice is in high demand.

Ricardo Blasco, the owner of one of Madrid’s oldest ice manufacturers, Blasco Ice, said his power bills have risen 50% – 60% since early this year and he had delayed the start of production from March to May to partly offset increased costs.

His factory runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week but is unable increase production further. Blasco says the worry of letting down clients who are ringing daily to seek more is keeping him awake at night.

“It’s hard not being able to satisfy everyone even if you want to,” he said. “We really are 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 smaller corner shops to find supplies.

Mercedes Nieto, the owner of a bar in Madrid’s trendy Chueca neighbourhood, said when her usual distributor ran out of ice she sought more from a local Chinese store which had raised prices, and also supermarkets, but they had run out.

“If this carries on, we are going to have real problems keeping open a cool drinks store,” she told Reuters as she mixed mojitos.

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

“The increased demand due to the high temperatures is leading 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)

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