Shortage fears grip the industry

Restrictions on the export of essential materials mined in China are pushing up lamp prices. The price of a kilo of these rare earths, used in phosphors, rose from under £20 to over £300

Philips, Osram and Havells Sylvania are raising the price of fluorescent lamps by about 30 per cent this month.

Gerry Knowles, from lamp supplier General Lamps, said: ‘There’s nothing we can do and our customers are getting cross. They just don’t know where they stand.’

Readers have told Lux that some manufacturers are struggling to fill large orders of lamps and they speculate that there are shortages.

Knowles said: ‘We’ve not been hit by a shortage of lamps yet, but it’s something we’re looking very closely at. We know it is affecting at least one manufacturer.’

Manufacturers are not honouring pricing on back orders, charging new prices for stock ordered in previous months. Knowles added: ‘It’s difficult. I can only give customers spot prices.’ Roy Maynard, estates manager at Lister Hospital in Stevenage, said: ‘There’s not much we can really do. We’re looking at suppliers and trying to secure prices.’

Megaman director Adrian Kitching told Lux: ‘I would say we are fortunate to be a global player based in Asia, because our market intelligence alerted us early to the rises and potential threats to the supply chain.

‘We moved quickly to secure a six-month supply of phosphor. The market price is £300-320 per kilo. It was £20 in February.

‘Most EU countries have been stocking up on compact fluorescent lamps and in the UK we are no different. We increased our stocks from March to June by £4 million.

‘We don’t anticipate any major changes, in fact we will not be increasing prices in October – as many of our competitors are – because supplies are secure and stocks already on the ground.’

Osram and GE have been working to find a way around the problem. Osram told Lux: ‘The highest priority has been, and is, to secure rare earth elements for maintaining our production.’

The company has secured its supply of rare earths through partnerships, various suppliers and long-term contracts. Osram added: ‘Our researchers are working hard to reduce the use of materials that are difficult to procure and to develop recovery procedures. In addition, Osram is developing a recycling procedure for the further use of luminescent substances from rare earth materials. Despite intense efforts we cannot compensate the cost impact from rare earth elements.’

Work to develop recycling technologies to extract materials stored in old electronics and other products is progressing, but will not reach the market for several years.

GE has established teams to manage the situation and to develop and procure phosphors that contain fewer rare earths. It is working to expand its base of suppliers.

GE commercial leader Simon Philips said: ‘Actions are under way to help manage the situation and GELighting is working with many other parties in the supply chain to provide longterm solutions.’

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