Taiwan urges calm amid frantic run on loo 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.
A photo made available by the Kaohsiung City government shows an inspector (left) checking toilet paper prices at a store. Panic buying started after major supermarkets were informed by toilet paper manufacturers of a 10 per cent to 30 per cent price
A photo made available by the Kaohsiung City government shows an inspector (left) checking toilet paper prices at a store. Panic buying started after major supermarkets were informed by toilet paper manufacturers of a 10 per cent to 30 per cent price hike from mid-March due to rising international pulp prices.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TAIPEI • Taiwan's Premier called for calm yesterday 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 rushed to stockpile 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, 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 per cent 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 the short fibre pulp used to make toilet paper now costs about US$800 (S$1,000) 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 .

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

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, yesterday said 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 about 5 per cent since October, the daily said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2018, with the headline 'Taiwan urges calm amid frantic run on loo paper'. Print Edition | Subscribe