Side Effects of the Drought in Panama


Panama Canal, courtesy of Lyn Gately, Flikr Creative Commons

Panama Canal, courtesy of Lyn Gately, Flikr Creative Commons

The Panama Canal uses 52 million gallons of fresh water for every passage.  When the mid-August (2015) drought-caused cargo restrictions went into effect for the Panama Canal, I read an Accuweather article that suggested results would not be limited to those felt by the shipping companies. Erica E. Phillips of the Wall Street Journal  quotes University of San Diego’s business school Joel Sutherland, director of the Supply Chain Management Institute:

Even a small amount of delayed cargo can have a far-reaching impact, he added.  For example, manufacturing companies waiting on key components could be forced to shut down temporarily.
“Everything backs up,” Mr. Sutherland said. “You could have some stock-outs, you could have some promises that aren’t met.”

Too right.  While the final port for most of what goes through the canal is not Panama itself, and the slowdowns will be felt later in those locations, it seems like the locals always feel it first, you know?  You can’t get a decent orange in Florida or a good apple in Washington state. They all go out of town. I fully expect the same principle to apply to the slowdown at the Canal.  Shipments of goods intended for Panamanian consumption will probably be the last to get consideration.

In fact, stock outages are being felt in the Las Tablas area right now, even though the restriction have barely officially started as of September 8.  I have been trying to get certain not terribly exotic over-the-counter medications for more over a month now.  In days of yore (five or so weeks ago), buying either of these was a simple matter of asking for it.  Now, neither are available.

When I bought my water tank, I couldn’t get the model I wanted, because shipment was delayed.  Twice.  So I bought a different model.  I haven’t checked back to see if they finally got my original selection.

We are still on water restriction in Peña Blanca (it’s OFF, other than for a few hours in the morning and another few in the evening).  Last August-September we had numerous really significant downpours, complete with thunder and lightning.  Some days you would’ve thought there was a war on, it was so loud and frequent.  This year, we’ve had very little in the way of electrical storms, and even the simple water dumps are infrequent.

The neighbors are concerned about the local rice crop.  “Everyone” eats rice here, several times a day.  So a small harvest could be serious.  And we might have to import some.  I would hope that would be considered a priority, but who knows?

I’m not much of a shopper, not really, so I expect that those who are could say a lot more about this.  You are welcome to add your own drought and drought-shortage experiences to this story in the comments.  In fact, I would appreciate it.

This is just another example of how interdependent we all truly are.  When you poke one of the raisins in the jello, they all quiver.