Toilet and tissue paper manufacturers have tried to reassure consumers and insist there is no need to panic-buy or stockpile hygiene products due to the coronavirus.
A joint statement by the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) and the Paper Industry Technical Association (PITA) said the market continued to operate normally despite coronavirus fears leaving supermarket shelves empty over the weekend.
The coronavirus outbreak has had no immediate impact on the UK tissue industry, tissue manufacturing, wholesale stock levels, the industry supply chain or supply to retailers, the associations added.
Manufacturing and distribution of toilet paper also continued to operate normally, and retail stocks were being replenished, the joint statement said.
“Coronavirus has no impact (or likely impact) on the actual demand for toilet tissue and it follows there is no need to panic buy or stockpile,” the two bodies added.
There was also no impact on manufacturing or supply chains for hand tissues, with product still being distributed to retailers as normal.
“Manufacturers have increased production to cope with strong demand triggered by additional hand drying and increased hand tissue use stemming from heightened concerns over the airborne spread of disease,” the statement said. “Additional product is now reaching retailers.”
A host of supermarkets have started rationing products to limit the amount each customer can buy after shoppers stripped shelves bare of a range of products over the weekend. These included hand sanitiser and pasta, as well as toilet paper and hand tissues.
Sainsbury’s was the latest retailer to introduce rationing of hygiene products today. The supermarket is limiting purchases of soap, handwash, tissues and cleaning products to five of each item per customer.
The CPI and PITA said today: “Consumers can be reassured that the present coronavirus outbreak has had no immediate impact on the UK tissue industry, tissue manufacturing, wholesale stock levels, the industry supply chain or supply to retailers.”
The UK used around 1.25 million tonnes of hygiene paper in 2019; more than half in the form of toilet tissue and the remainder as hand, facial, industrial and sanitary tissues.
About half of this tissue was made in the UK – at 17 tissue mills – with the balance being imported.
The tissue is made from sustainable wood fibres, either recycled or virgin, with recycled fibres largely sourced from within the UK, or from European countries. Paper tissue is normally a blend of fibres, mostly conifer and plantation-grown eucalyptus sourced from Europe or the Americas.
The CPI and PITA said some press reports had incorrectly suggested huge volumes of tissue were imported from China. “This is not true,” the associations added. “As part of a global market, there are some exports to the UK, comprising around 2% of the market. All product is transported by ship, taking at least four weeks to arrive.”
The CPI trade association represents the UK’s paper-based industries, comprising paper and board manufacturers and converters, corrugated packaging producers, makers of soft tissue papers and collectors of paper for recycling. The industry had a combined turnover of more than £12bn and employs 62,000 staff.
PITA is an independent, member-based organisation, which operates for the general benefit of its members – both individual and corporate. It is dedicated to promoting and improving the technical and scientific knowledge of those working in the fibrous forest products industries, such as pulp, paper, wood panel, moulded pulp and other similar industries.