Toilet paper, paper towels, tissues: price increase or shortage, here’s what to expect

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Toilet paper is one of the products on which the French rushed during the pandemic in the face of the risk of shortage. (©Johann Foucault / actu.fr)

It is Michel-Edouard Leclerc himself who says: the price of toilet paper will “rise considerably”. The president of the Strategic Committee of the E.Leclerc centers recently slipped it into the media.

A situation that concerns all hygiene papers (paper handkerchiefs, paper towels, etc.). In this context, should we fear a shortage? Elements of response with professionals in the sector.

The increase in prices, a direct consequence of the war in Ukraine?

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion in Ukraine, the cost of raw materials and energy has soared, causing prices to soar in many sectors. That of paper is no exception.

“Since February 24 and the start of the war in Ukraine, the price of energy, and in particular gas, has drastically increased, continuing to weaken the economic situation of our industry”, notes a spokesperson for Essity, international group specializing in hygiene and health, which produces brands such as Lotus, Tempo, Nana…

But to make toilet paper, you need electricity for the machines, gas for those that dry the paper. Not to mention paper pulp, which is also increasing sharply, packaging, which has increased little, and transport, which has been undermined by the increase in fuels.

A price increase well before Ukraine

But the stalemate in the Ukraine-Russia conflict alone is not enough to explain the situation. Because this surge in prices was already observed long before the start of the war.

“For a year in reality, the rise in energy costs has been linked to the rise in the price of Russian gas, already linked to the situation in Ukraine”, deciphers Paul-Antoine Lacour, general delegate of the French Union of Cardboard, Paper and Cellulose Industries (Copacel).

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In one year, in total, costs in the toilet paper sector have increased by 20 to 40% and the upward trend continues.

Paul Antoine LacourGeneral Delegate of the French Union of Cardboard, Paper and Cellulose Industries (Copacel)

In one year, the Essity company has thus noted a “cost of electricity multiplied by 2, that of gas by 4, the cost of paper pulp has increased by +70%. However, these elements are the essential components involved in the manufacture of toilet paper, handkerchiefs and paper towels. »

Also a repercussion of the Covid?

With the health crisis, the sector had already experienced difficulties, but above all of a logistical nature, some of which persist with the post-covid economic rebound.

There are still difficulties in maritime transport, sometimes disorganized, which can create an extension in delivery times.

Paul Antoine LacourCopacel
In Theil-sur-Huisne, Essity notably produces paper towels and toilet paper.
Production of toilet paper at Essity, in Theil-sur-Huisne (Orne). (©Archives/Le Perche)

How much more will it increase?

Impossible to quantify precisely what will be the increases to be expected. “ The paper pulp will probably continue to increase a little more, recognizes Paul-Antoine Lacour, but it is impossible to know what will be the evolution of energy costs in the current geopolitical context. In any case, there are no signs of lower costs by the end of the year. »

For his part, Michel-Edouard Leclerc offers some general estimates:

In all the rays, it will move between 0.5 and 15%. On average, it’s +3.5% in all stores in France over the next 2-3 months.

Michel-Edouard LeclercChairman of the E.Leclerc Centers Strategic Committee

Should we expect a shortage?

An eternal question that resembles a vicious circle. The more there is talk of price increases, the more consumers stock up. The shelves are empty and give the image of a shortage. Shortage which, even without being proven, encourages more to rush on products to stock up, as was the case during the health crisis.

“Today, in France, there is no shortage and no risk of shortageand I do not anticipate a major shortage unless consumers trigger it themselves by overstocking,” Michel-Edouard Leclerc said on Sunday, referring to all the products that can be distributed in supermarkets, toilet paper and groceries included.

An opinion also shared by Paul-Antoine Lacour, for the hygiene paper part.

“No risk of shortage, nor of observed rush on the part of our customers”, we also note within the stores of the Carrefour group.

While at Lidlwe recommend limiting your purchases, especially in oil and toilet paper, in order to “avoid the rush phenomena that we experienced on these products during the first confinement”, recently indicated the brand to our editorial staff. Toulouse newsstating that “there is no shortage to date”.

During the first confinement, customers threw themselves on the toilet paper when there was no reason to worry.
During confinement, customers threw themselves on the toilet paper when there was no reason to worry. (© Timothée l’Angevin/Actu Rennes)

Can costs be reduced?

Are consumers doomed to pay ever more for a hygiene product that remains essential? Without a doubt.

Because now manufacturers like Essity must, in order to cover their costs, “increase the prices for our retail customers significantly. Given the magnitude of the increases, we can no longer absorb these additional costs alone as we have been doing for over a year. Between manufacturers and distributors, negotiations are going well.

And at the end of the chain, either the increase is passed on at all levels, down to the shelf price, or the manufacturer and the distributor cannot come to an agreement.

In this case, and this would be the only situation where we would see the shelves empty, if the negotiations go badly, the only option may be a plant stoppage, to avoid working at a loss. This has already happened in several European countries.

Paul Antoine LacourCopacel

Increase at all levels

A situation that is not frankly encouraging for the household budget. Especially since it is not only this item of expenditure that is affected, between food products, clothing, fuel, electricity, gas…

“The war in Ukraine will potentially add a layer from the summer, if the conflict persists,” said Michel-Edouard Leclerc.

Not very reassuring.

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