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Suez Canal blockage and COVID-19 blamed for garden gnome shortage

Supply chain issues caused by the blockage of the Suez Canal and the COVID-19 pandemic have led to the shortage of a surprising item in hot demand — garden gnomes.

Garden gnomes have seen a spike in popularity in the UK as homeowners turn to garden and outdoor renovations to pass the time during ongoing lockdowns.

But the heavy demand, coupled with the recent blockage of the Suez Canal by cargo vessel Ever Given — which caused global trade delays — has led to an unfortunate nationwide shortage of the beloved outdoor ornaments.

Ian Byrne from Highfield Garden World in Whitminster, in England’s west, told the BBC the gardening retailer “hadn’t seen a gnome in six months”.

“There aren’t any. There’s definitely a shortage,” he said.

“Raw materials are becoming a bit of an issue, and unfortunately, gnomes are a victim of that shortage of supply. Gnomes of any type, plastic, stone, or concrete, are in short supply.

“They’ve been trendy over the last couple of seasons; we’ve seen a massive upswing in the sales of gnomes and definitely a different clientele wanting gnomes too.”

Iain Wylie, chief executive of the UK’s Garden Center Association, agreed gardening had become very popular during the lockdown, and supply chains were under pressure.

“With goods arriving from abroad, garden centers were affected by the ship getting stuck in the canal as much as any other industry,” he said. “Garden furniture, ornaments, of which gnomes would be some, being stuck in containers trying to come over here.” Mr. Byrne from Highfield Garden World said garden gnomes weren’t just difficult to come by in the UK but across Europe.

There were global fears of “catastrophic” delays of essential supplies last month when the 400m long Ever Given became wedged in the Suez Canal. This narrow strait is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and a vital gateway for cargo movement between Europe and Asia.

In the six days, the ship was stuck, Australians were warned to brace for shortages of goods arriving by ship, with exporters tipped to be the worst hurt.

The massive container ship eventually became unstuck and seized by Egyptian authorities, who refused to release it until a compensation amount was settled with the vessel’s Japanese owner, Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd.

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