×

The beauty (long term) of shortages

Have you noticed there seem to be a lot of shortages looming?

Olive oil is expected to be hit hard by weather and related insect problems in Europe. And that's where more than 70 percent of the world's production comes from.

Our recent winter onslaught hit road salt supplies before inventories were fully restocked, leading to potential shortfalls there.

Meanwhile, because of increases in consumption and drops in cocoa production, some outfits are predicting a shortage of chocolate in coming years. There are already minor shortfalls in immediate supplies. There are fears those deficits will get worse with weather problems in Africa and fungus infestations in South America.

Read MoreThe coming choc-apolypse

And if that wasn't enough, increases in demand for turkeys have folks wondering about a bird shortage just in time for Thanksgiving.

If all these dire outlooks have you worried, stop. Predictions like these tend to be based on production downtrends.

When shortages come, prices go up. Indeed price hikes have been reported already for olive oil, road salt and chocolate. (Not so much for turkeys, but sellers like to keep those prices down in hopes that you'll buy higher-margin cranberries and pumpkin pie fixings while picking up the bird).

But higher prices make it more tempting to find ways to increase production and cash in – weather, bugs and whatever else be damned. Indeed, the higher prices climb the more inclined producers are to sink money into research on weather patterns, insecticides, and inventory management.

So take heart kitchen gourmands and chocoholics. Short-term pains lead to long-term gains. That's the beauty of economics, when it's allowed to move freely.