Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Puerto Rico Ice Industry Working at Full tilt to Meet Demand

By on October 24, 2017

SAN JUAN – Under usual circumstances, bags of ice are associated with occasions such as parties, but after Hurricane Maria’s passage, ice’s importance as a staple has been consolidated.

Within a month of the storm’s destruction, people continue to desperately search for bags of ice at establishments such as supermarkets and gas stations, and even at ice factories, where there are long wait lines and the number of bags is usually limited to one or two a family.

The ice may last about two days, but these are additional moments in which to conserve perishable foods or just enjoy a cold drink. Ángel David Vázquez, president of the Puerto Rico Ice Manufacturers Association and also El Ángel Ice Plant, explained that although the local plants that manufacture ice currently have the capacity to meet increased demand, the industry was not spared from the effects of the hurricane.

(Jaime Rivera/CB)

“Like all businesses in Puerto Rico, the storm momentarily affected production, due to issues such as the lack of electricity or water,” Vázquez said. There are about 35 or 36 plants across the island, he added, which under regular circumstances produce more ice than is in demand. “If something was demonstrated after the hurricane, it is that apart from products such as food, in emergencies like this, ice is truly a commodity, and Puerto Rico has a solid industry to supply it.”

He explained that the plants in Puerto Rico are in overdrive producing ice, with some operating 24/7, “and that’s still not enough.” One challenge some plants face is a lack of power service, which leads plants to rely on generators to stay in operation, even though this represents a financial impact with the price of fuel to operate the generators increasing by 50%.

Vázquez’s ice plant produces 75 tons of ice every 24 hours in San Juan’s Reparto Metropolitano community, and depending on such factors as temperature, can represent about 15,000 bags of ice a day.

“Under usual situations, we sell to wholesale customers, but given the times we are going through, bags of ice are sold to the public from the same plant,” Vázquez said.

The suggested price at which ice can be sold, he noted, fluctuates between $1.50 and $1.75 per bag, and that may be in special economic sectors. A tourism sector [retailer] can raise the price by $1 or $2 for products that include ice, but “people should not pay more than two pesos for a bag of ice.”

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