In the United States, Americans celebrate freedoms — of speech, religion, press and assembly — on the Fourth of July with fireworks almost exclusively imported from China.Bettmann Archive
If you want me to accurately set your expectations for the bedazzlement you will experience as you crane your neck into the night sky to observe Fourth of July fireworks, I am sorry to disappoint.
You see, the data on U.S. imports of fireworks is a little cloudy at this point. Hopefully, the Independence Day night skies will not be.
Yes, we import fireworks. And, yes, more than 95% have come from China for years, with the exception of 2018, when the total slipped to 94.82%. (They did invent gunpowder, you know.) Last year, the total was a record 97.01%. So far this year, that percentage is slightly better than 96%.
Not surprisingly, the adjacent ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach account for better than 60% of the total, though that percentage has slipped as the ports of Newark and Charleston have shown increases in recent years.
But, yes, the data is not only cloudy at this point. It’s also a little incomplete.
Traditionally but not always, the four biggest months for firework imports are March, April, May and June, though not in that order. May is always the biggest month of the year. And June is either the second-biggest or third-biggest, sometimes trailing March, almost always.
The problem is, data for June, for those just-in-time shipments, won’t be released until the first week of August.
That’s the incomplete part.
The cloudy part is trying to determine what the latest numbers are telling us.
Is the harbinger of what will come the total for March and April of this year, which is 51% greater than the previous record for those two months, set in 2015?
Is the harbinger the current year-to-date total — January through April — which is only 6% greater than the 2019 record? In that year, January and February “lit it up,” making the year something of an outlier.
Is the harbinger the April total for 2021, which was 61.33% greater than the record set in 2016 for an April?
Is the harbinger looking at the record year for January through June — which is 2019 — and then comparing January through April of that year with the first four months of this year, the most current data available.
If so, you can expect a Fourth of July dud, since imports are down 36.34% from the first four months of 2019.
What is clear is that the fireworks being imported this year are by far the heaviest fireworks. The weight of fireworks imported this March and April were70.58% heavier than the previous record, set in 2015. What, exactly, should we make of that?
Perhaps the best thing to do, in a world that sometimes seems it is filled with conflicting and contradictory data, is to find a nice spot for a blanket and a picnic basket, crane your neck to the sky, and be bedazzled by fireworks splashing and booming across the night sky in celebration of the victory of and ongoing pursuit of an idea, freedom of expression, religion, press and, of course on the Fourth, assembly.