Balloons harder to inflate

Party shops in Quebec are struggling to meet unprecedented demand for helium balloons as this precious gas, which is becoming increasingly rare on the planet, becomes scarce.

Father’s Day, Grand Prix, proms, weddings, national holidays: these helium shortages come at a very bad time for the industry when balloon orders are unprecedented.

“People haven’t partied in two years and I can tell you they’re partying like never before! explains Lynda Bouvier, President of the Party Expert Group, noting that her company is breaking balloon sales records.

The Journal contacted seven companies from around the world party in Quebec. Each of them is struggling to get helium, and some have been without helium for a month.

Four months: That’s the helium supply of Party Expert, one of the biggest players in its industry in Canada.

Dry deposit

A year ago, a shortage of this non-renewable gas, which is used in large quantities to inflate party balloons in particular, began, but in recent weeks businesses have started to feel the effects severely.

In response, Party Expert had certain guarantees included in its suppliers’ contracts, including the ability to hold a reserve.

“We’ve been driving on reserve for two months,” says Ms. Bouvier. This isn’t the first time this has happened to us, but it has never lasted this long. »

According to Daniele Luigi Pinti, professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM), it is the depletion of a deposit in the United States that has been supplying the world for a hundred years that is causing the problem. (Details in box.)

Canceled Orders

Most retailers don’t have the buying power of the big players and are immediately hit by the problem.

“It’s like going to one Steak house and we tell you, ‘There is no such thing as steak’,” says Jules Ahmarani, owner of Roi du Party, highlighting the importance of helium for its operations in Saint-Jérôme, Laval and Joliette.

They have to fall back on the small pumps that the trade sells because their supplier can no longer supply them with sufficient quantities.

“We adapt by losing a little bit of money but always saying, ‘Yes, we have something!’ continues Mr. Ahmarani.

“You never know from one week to the next whether you’re going to have some,” explains Marie-Pier Boulanger, co-owner of Créations Marie Cake, in Beauce. Last week we ran out of money for the first time and had to cancel all our customers and offer them a cut. »

other option

Several companies polled by Le Journal believe customers will have to get used to opting for these air-filled balloons, which are mounted on structures to hold them up, which will be cheaper and more accessible than helium balloons.

“It is clear that this situation [de pénurie] will deteriorate in the coming years,” predicts Mr. Pinti.

  • Helium price up 35% for party balloon dealers. Some have no choice but to pass the bill on to customers, while others absorb the increase.

Not just for parties

Helium, an invisible gas, is the most abundant element in the universe after hydrogen, but very little is found in Earth’s atmosphere.

Obtained from natural gas deposits in the rock, it is mainly needed for airbags in cars, to keep various devices in the aerospace industry at low temperatures, but also to cool the magnets of medical imaging devices in the healthcare network.

Professor Daniele Luigi Pinti from the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at UQAM is most concerned about health.

“It’s clear that hospitals etc. have to be careful about their helium consumption,” he says, but emphasizes that this sector benefits from prioritization of suppliers.

“No issue of access to imagery was raised in relation to this deficiency,” the said protocol the Department of Health and Social Care.

Other deposits, notably in Qatar, Poland and Russia, are beginning to be exploited, but the world is still a long way from finding supplies like the United States could.

The solution could also be found in Canada, since Saskatchewan wants to exploit gases that produce helium in the southwest of its territory. The province aims to capture 10% of the global helium market by 2030.

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