The U.S. Is Facing a Boba Shortage That Could Last Months
Any remaining supply is expected to dwindle in the coming weeks.
Part of the "new normal" we've spent more than a year coming to terms with is the fact that every once in a while, something we depend on will face a supply shortage. It started with toilet paper, then spread to the cleaning aisles, food aisles, and crafting aisles. Now, whether or not a shortage is related to COVID-19, we're conditioned to be relatively unfazed by news of another out-of-stock item. All this to say that nothing—nothing—could have prepared us for the latest shortage news.
In the coming weeks, the US will burn through its boba supply—and it may not be fully replenished for several months, according to a report by MarketWatch.
Right now, there is a major shipping backlog on the West Coast, affecting product shipments between Asia and the US. While it's not just boba that's mixed up in the supply-chain issue, the bubble tea industry is being hit especially hard because its supplies are imported almost exclusively from Asia. Boba balls are generally imported from Taiwan and tapioca starch, the main ingredient used to make boba balls, is sourced primarily from Thailand.
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Preparing for a difficult few months, bubble tea shops are starting to warn their customers of the impending shortage to prevent any surprises if and when they run out of boba pearls.
Boba Guys, a bicoastal bubble tea chain, took to Instagram to inform its fanbase on the issue. "This is an industry-wide shortage. Some boba shops are already out. Others will run out in the next few weeks. 99% of boba comes from overseas," the post reads, adding that "it will be in flux for several months until we get our next series of tapioca starch shipments."
The video in Boba Guys' post explains that shipments that would normally take a month to be imported and delivered are now taking four to five months. Until those shipping kinks are worked out, bubble tea businesses will struggle to deliver tapioca pearls to customers.