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Toilet Roll Supply Threatened by Coronavirus Border Disruptions

Toilet Roll Supply Threatened by Coronavirus Border Disruptions

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, numerous governments across the Eurozone have imposed strict travel restrictions to curb the transmission of the virus. A couple of the world’s major pulp manufacturers have raised their concerns that border disruptions are leading to delays in transporting the raw and essential component required to make toilet paper. Toilet rolls have become a highly sought-after product as consumers prepare for lockdowns and extended quarantines.

Last month, countries such as Spain, Norway and Germany closed all commercial and non-emergency travel to and from their borders. Consignments are an exemption to the ruling but imposing the new stringent regulations means that shipments of pulp destined for China and North America now face heavy delays threatening the supply of certain products such as toilet paper.

Consequently, Finland and Sweden have reported that shipments of pulp that passes through the bloc are being held up by increased traffic often lasting for more than 24 hours.

Products made from pulp, such as toilet paper and baby diapers, have become extremely popular and are selling out in most supermarkets worldwide, as worried consumers panic buy their way through stores to fill up their stockpiles of essential goods to sustain them through stringent lockdowns and national quarantines. Consumer businesses reportedly have enough stock to deal with the unprecedented surge in consumer panic buying, however, they are starting to increase manufacturing rates to deal with potential extensions to lockdowns and quarantines.

Even temporary delays and shipment route disruptions can put factory equipment and operations on hold, costing manufacturers valuable time and money which then has a domino effect on consumer sentiment and spending as prices become more expensive.

The President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, on April 2nd outlined the emergency measures that the European Union was taking to tackle the impact of the coronavirus. During the press conference Mrs. Leyen said: “In the present circumstances, fighting to save peoples’ lives, and to protect peoples’ livelihoods, is the overriding mission of all public authorities across the European Union. And the Commission is doing just that. When Europe was freezing up with uncoordinated border closures and export bans, we acted to keep goods and key personnel moving to where they were needed. That was the most urgent task. And I think that things are improving right now.”

“In parallel, we moved to give the Member States all the breathing space they needed to provide the necessary oxygen to their economies, their businesses and their workers. So how did we do that? We put in place the most flexible state aid framework ever. It is unprecedented. And we triggered for the very first time the general escape clause. And this allowed a massive injection of liquidity into the European economy.”

“The ECB launched purchasing programs, and the EIB provided a dedicated corona response to give loans to small and medium enterprises hit by the corona crisis. All of this has been done in record time and it helped keep the European economy on its feet.”

“The lockdown paralyzed the demand and it paralyzed the supply. Many companies are now left with no income and if we do nothing, they will have to lay off their workers, their employees. And this has as a consequence, when the engine will restart, when the world economy will restart, they will not have the skilled workforce they need to take the offers. So, we will lose markets and this will limit our recovery. And this is why we introduced today SURE.”

Click here to read the full transcript from the press conference.

According to a report by the BBC’s business reporter Lora Jones sales of toilet rolls have gone through the roof as consumers clear supermarket stocks of toilet paper.

‘US firm No. 2, which also sells bamboo toilet paper, said that in the month-to-date, it had seen more than a 5,000% increase in its sales on Amazon’s website before it sold out too.’

‘Meanwhile, Who Gives A Crap’s chief executive Simon Griffiths said that at the beginning of March, sales were up to five times higher than on an average February day.’

To read the full report click here.

As a way of sidestepping the disruption pulp producers are hiring more couriers to increase the number of heavy goods vehicles they have on the move, as well as diverting normal shipment routes to avoid delays. Various pulp manufacturers are turning to rail as a means of transporting supplies, especially after many truck drivers turned in their resignations amidst growing fears that the coronavirus could become uncontrollable.

Toilet paper is made by mixing both softwood and hardwood pulp. Softwood pulp is made from recycled paper and hardwood pulp is often made from eucalyptus trees.

More than 60 million tons of pulp were manufactured in 2019, with nearly 40 percent being used in the production of toilet rolls, facial tissues and kitchen paper. Around 10 percent was used in the manufacturing of baby diapers.

China is the world’s largest importer of pulp, closely shadowed by North America and parts of the EU. There are currently more than 1.4 million confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide, with more than 300,000 having recovered and more than 80,000 having lost their lives to the new Covid-19 that has taken the global economy and our everyday lives by storm.