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Global helium shortage hits Rogue Valley

Retailers will have to decide if they're willing to pay the extra cost, but some places are already having a difficult time getting helium.

Posted: May. 14, 2019 6:53 PM

ROGUE VALLEY, Ore. -- A global shortage of helium could start affecting every day life. Helium is used for more than just balloons.
Many industries that require helium, like the medical field, could be in danger.

NewsWatch12 spoke with several stores today and a lot of them are having a hard time getting their normal supply of helium.
Some stores are doing okay still, but they have had to increase their prices. Filling one balloon costs more than four dollars at some locations.

Many people do not realize that helium is a non-renewable resource. It is made on earth through nuclear decay of uranium, and it is recovered from mines. The United States' had a large supply that lasted several decades, so helium prices used to be cheaper.
Now tnat supply is limited and prices are increasing drastically. 

The manager of Central Welding Supply in White City, Bruce Tozer, said they've been preparing for the shortage since last year to make sure they would still be able to get helium to their customers.

"We are having to go out to worldwide markets to bring into helium and so we're going to see those prices go up because of limited supplies or the fact that we have to go to foreign markets to get them," Tozer said. 

He said up until now the United States had paid a low price for helium, especially when compared to the rest of the world.

"We are having to go out to worldwide markets to bring into helium and so we're going to see those prices go up because of limited supplies or the fact that we have to go to foreign markets to get them," Tozer explained. 

Tozer sells several tanks at Central Welding Supply, including helium, "We have a number of customers and the consumer products and there are some people who use it for research and development."

There's helium available, but mainly in other countries, and the helium in other countries is much more expensive.

Tozer said, "We've paid a very low price for helium up until now, and again there's other resources around the world that have been paying a lot more for helium."

Other countries charge ten times as much for helium. NewsWatch12 looked up the prices for helium and the average was a few hundred dollars in the U.S., but in other countries, one tank is thousands of dollars.

Ever since Central Welding Supply heard of the shortage a year ago, they began preparing as best they could.

Tozer said, "So actually our supply chain is increasing over the next couple of months because we've been planning for this. doesn't mean the prices won't be going up because they will be."

Now retailers will just have to decide if they're willing to pay the extra cost and some places are already having a difficult time getting helium.

Myles Doshier, the Assistant Manager of Sherm's Food 4 Less, said, "So when we ordered we're not getting the quantity that we order it's still arriving but not as much is for asking you know we have to have helium to inflate balloons so that's kind of the deal."

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