BRAZIL (From news reports) -- The massive ship blocking the Suez Canal may prove to be a titanic pain in the butt -- by reportedly unleashing a toilet paper shortage not seen since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
The owner of the Ever Given, the 200,000-ton behemoth that ran aground this week when high winds turned it sideways, has apologized for the mega-blockage, which is causing a global trade crisis.
But the proverbial s-t could really hit the fan if it triggers another TP crisis, as a flotilla of cargo ships remain stuck behind the huge vessel.
Walter Schalka, CEO of the Brazilian wood pulp company Suzano SA, said that the firm was struggling to transport the raw material for toilet paper amid the delays. The Sao Paulo-based Suzano accounts for about a third of global supplies of hardwood pulp.
The Suez bottleneck comes amid existing shipping container shortages sparked by increasing demand in China and a reduction in supplies.
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 said.
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.