Photo of the Day: End of the roll for Taiwan toilet paper panic

The great Taiwan toilet paper panic of 2018 finally wraps up

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Joshua Samuel Brown. (Photo from Twitter account @josambro) 

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Cyclist Joshua Samuel Brown (葉家喜), author of four books on Taiwan including two Taiwan guidebooks for Lonely Planet, poses with a photo of stacks of toilet paper packages to show that the mad run on toilet tissues in Taiwan seems to be finally winding down.

Due to production disruptions in Brazil and forest fires in Canada, the global cost of short fiber pulp, which is used to produce toilet paper, has risen from US$650 per ton on average to US$800 as of February, according to the the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA).

Toilet paper suppliers in February informed Taiwan's retailers that prices of the product will go up by 10 to 30 percent, likely starting in mid-March. This means that consumers are likely to see the cost of a 12 pack of inter-fold toilet paper to rise from NT$200 (US$6.84) to NT$260 (US$8.89), reported CNA.

On Feb. 23, toilet paper brands announced price hike in toilet paper would take effect in mid March, word quickly spread to consumers and panic buying soon set in across Taiwan, with many shops reporting empty shelves by Feb. 25.


What toilet paper shelves looked like by Feb. 25. (CNA image)

John Purkis, a British elementary school teacher living in Taipei, saw the mad rush for toilet paper first hand: "I was at Carrefour in Taoyuan on Saturday night at 10 p.m. and every single person was checking out with their carts stacked 6 feet high with tissue paper."

On February 26, a video a user of the popular Facebook platform Breaking News Commune (爆廢公社) posted video of the moment a pallet stacked with packages of toilet paper hit the store's floor. As the video begins, a mob of customers is already surrounding the stack of toilet tissue packages and before the 16-second video is complete, the pallet has been picked completely clean.

Wu Cheng-hsueh (吳政學), deputy director-general of Taiwan's Department of Consumer Protection, told the press on Feb. 25 that the country's four major retailers promised that toilet paper prices will not rise until mid-March and urged the public not to engage in panic buying, reported UDN

On Feb. 27, Taiwan's Fair Trade Commission (FTC) held a meeting with eight major toilet paper manufacturers and retailers to get to the bottom of the sudden craze over toilet paper prices. The government warned retailers that if they were found to be colluding together to raise prices, they could be fined up to NT$50 million. 

By the end of the week, many retailers across the nation had managed to respond to the massive demand, and by the weekend, supplies had started to return to normal in many areas. 

On March 3, Brown took his photo of shelves fully stocked with toilet paper at a Carrefour in New Taipei City's Xindian District, almost exactly a week after the peak of the toilet tissue buying panic.  


Brown poses with ample supply of toilet paper at Carrefour. (Photo from Twitter account @josambro)