Yields of agar from the raw material (seaweed) last year were low due to variable quality.
The company plans to review its agar sales in the first quarter of 2016.
It said the market may experience price increases for selected media as a result of strong fluctuations in the raw material price.
Thermo Fisher Scientific has also temporarily stopped selling two agars due to a shortage in the seaweed used to make them.
It said the sales had been suspended until next year to maintain supply of manufactured dehydrated culture media (DCM) to customers.
Thermo said the production and supply of agar - which is widely used in the food industry as a gelling and thickening agent - is limited to a small number of regions and in the past 12 months there has been a global shortage.
Demand from other sectors
After the news regarding Thermo came to light, we contacted a number of companies and Merck confirmed the shortage of agar in the market.
“This shortage is a result of strong demand for agar across various non-industrial applications, including for human consumption,” said Lysander Chrisstoffels, head of core product and technology marketing.
“Fluctuating yields from the harvest of red algae, where agar is derived, are also affecting supply. As a result, the market is experiencing shortages that affect the supply of agar as a raw material as well as agar price increases.
“The shortage has not, however, affected availability of Merck’s dehydrated culture media and ready to use media for our customers in the quality control labs.
“Merck’s rigorous supply chain management has kept the company’s global supply of dehydrated culture media and ready-to-use media from being affected. Merck continues to work closely with existing and new suppliers to secure quality agar to support its product range.”
‘Always seems to be a shortage of quality product’
Meanwhile, a source who wished to remain anonymous, told us there always seems to be a shortage of quality product.
“My suppliers earmark a certain amount annually for us. We have been long-term customers with our suppliers for many years,” he said.
“I primarily deal in two species of agar-agar: Gelidium and Gracilaria. In my opinion there are only a couple of reliable sources for product - meaning that you can depend on quality and know that processes and procedures are following protocol to insure purity.
“I do not purchase from SE Asia or Mexico (especially China). We only conduct business with suppliers from Spain and Chile. Again, it is the quality concern.”
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