It was one of the iconic images of the early days of lockdown – shoppers stocking up on toilet paper in case of pandemic-influenced shortages.
But while that behaviour was driven largely by a fear of the unknown, toilet paper could indeed be in short supply in the coming weeks, according to the chief executive of one of the world's biggest wood pulp firms, Suzano SA.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Suzano CEO Walter Schalka said that a shortage in shipping containers could lead to an inability to transport pulp, which coinciding with the potential for consumer stockpiling could mean that toilet paper producers could begin to see their pulp inventories dwindle.
“All the South American players which export through break bulk have faced this risk,” Schalka told Bloomberg.
The Sao Paulo-based company anticipates exporting less than usual in March, and is rolling over some shipments to April, the news outlet said. Suzano accounts for about a third of the global supplies of hardwood pulp, which is used to develop toilet paper.
Last April, following a surge in bulk purchasing and logistics logjams, many manufacturers also temporarily reported a drop in pulp inventories, with some switching from road deliveries to rail to ensure that supply chains could be maintained.
"Now is the moment to make toilet paper - we'll have to make sure that we can produce and deliver as much pulp as possible," Ari Harmaala, head of sales at Metsä Fibre, the world's second largest softwood pulp producer, said at the time.
Since then, the imposition of new lockdowns has also at times led to consumer stocking up on toilet paper – in Germany last October, for example, sales of toilet paper surged by 89.9% compared to pre-crisis levels, as new quarantine measures came into effect.
© 2021 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Stephen Wynne-Jones. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: The European Supermarket Magazine.