Coronavirus: Chinese toilet paper makers say there’s ‘plenty of stock’ after panic buying in HK

21-Feb-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Guangzhou lawyer Ding Yaqing just could not understand it when she saw images of people panic buying toilet paper over the border in Hong Kong because of the coronavirus outbreak.

“I saw [on the news] that Hong Kong people are stockpiling toilet paper,” Ding said. “But why? How could Hong Kong ever run out?”

In Haizhu district where Ding lives, the supermarkets and convenience stores are well stocked with the bathroom necessity, and there are fewer shoppers around because of measures to control the spread of the deadly virus.

For Ding, who has been working from home like many people in mainland China and Hong Kong amid the outbreak, running out of toilet paper is not a concern she can buy it online.

“I can always order it online and my understanding is that many manufacturers have resumed production, so there is really nothing to worry about,” she said, referring to the extended break after the Lunar New Year holiday because of the epidemic.

Toilet paper has become a highly sought after item in Hong Kong in recent weeks, with shoppers emptying supermarket shelves of the product and stockpiling tissues, disinfectant and liquid hand soap as the city braces for more cases of the virus.

The new coronavirus strain, which causes a disease now known as Covid-19, has killed more than 2,000 people and infected over 74,000, since the outbreak began in December. In Hong Kong, 63 cases have been reported and two people have died from the pneumonia-like illness.

The panic buying was apparently driven by a fear that Hong Kong would close its border with Shenzhen, disrupting the supply of daily necessities like toilet paper as mainland China struggles to control the outbreak.

A spokesman for Hengan Group, a leading personal hygiene products manufacturer based in Fujian province, said even with the spike in demand from Hong Kong and the Lunar New Year break, production levels were normal.

“Our supply of toilet paper for Hong Kong has remained stable and we have plenty of stock despite the Lunar New Year holiday,” said a public relations manager for Hengan, surnamed Chen.

“We’re not changing our sales strategy [because of what's happened in Hong Kong],” she said, adding that the company whose toilet paper brands include Pino had not seen any noticeable increase in orders from the city in recent weeks.

Guangdong-based Ho-Comfort, another personal hygiene products maker, also said the run on toilet paper in Hong Kong had not had any impact on its business.

Liu Yuanquan, a vice-president of the company, said while production had been stalled by the slow return to work after the Lunar New Year break, sales to Hong Kong were normal.

“Our production capacity is down by half because fewer workers have returned but our supply to Hong Kong has not been affected because the city only accounts for about 10 per cent of our output,” Liu said.

Guo Yukuan, a senior researcher with the China Society of Economic Reform, a state-backed think tank, said the panic buying was irrational.

“This is purely driven by panic and stress,” Guo said. “China’s production capacity [for toilet paper] can supply not just Hong Kong but the whole world, and as a free port, Hong Kong can always import from other sources,” he said. “Hong Kong’s supply is never a problem and the market will eventually adjust itself.”


Category: China

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