Taiwan urges calm over panic buying of toilet paper

Supermarkets in Taiwan have seen a frenzy of customers over the weekend trying to stock up on toilet paper amid fears of sharp price increases.
An inspector (left) checking toilet paper on sale to see if retailers are cutting supplies to hike prices at a store in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, on Feb 26, 2018.
An inspector (left) checking toilet paper on sale to see if retailers are cutting supplies to hike prices at a store in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, on Feb 26, 2018.PHOTO: KAOHSIUNG CITY GOVERNMENT

TAIPEI - Taiwan’s premier called for calm on Tuesday (Feb 27) following a desperate run on toilet paper on the island, sparked by speculation of imminent price hikes.

Shelves usually stacked with toilet paper, kitchen paper and boxed tissues stood empty in many supermarkets as residents stockpiled supplies. 

Major online retailers had also run out, including PChome, which reportedly sold five million packs of toilet paper in three days.

“We ask the public not to panic and not to rush to buy,” Premier Lai Ching-te told reporters yesterday according to Agence France-Presse. “The supply is sufficient.”

The panic buying started after major supermarkets were informed by toilet paper manufacturers of a 10- to 30-per-cent price hike from mid-March due to rising international pulp prices.

Forest fires in Canada and disruption to production in Brazil are among the factors being blamed.

The price of short fibre pulp, used to make toilet paper, now costs about US$800 per tonne, compared with US$650 a year ago, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs.

But some shoppers said they bulk-bought because of fears the product would run out, rather than over price worries, BBC reported .

Taiwan’s Fair Trade Commission said it had met representatives from three major toilet paper suppliers and five retailers to warn them against price-fixing.

In Hong Kong, Nine Dragons, one of Asia’s largest packaging and paper producers, said yesterday paper products, including toilet rolls, were likely to become costlier this year due to a shortage of raw materials and imported waste paper, South China Morning Post reported .

Vinda International Holdings, China’s third-largest tissue manufacturer, had raised tissue product prices by 4 to 5 per cent since October, the daily said.