Worldwide, total exports of toilet paper by country equaled US$4.5 billion in 2019. That dollar amount represents an 11% gain for all toilet paper shippers over the five-year period starting in 2015. Year over year, the value of exported toilet paper increased 5.4% from 2018 to 2019.
Adopting a continental perspective, European countries accounted for the highest dollar worth of exported toilet paper during 2019 with shipments valued at $2.2 billion or 51.3% of the global total. In second place were exporters in Asia at 27.7% while 12% of international toilet paper shipments originated from North America. Smaller amounts came from Latin America (5.9%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, Africa (2.4%) and Oceania (0.5%) led by New Zealand and Australia.
The 6-digit Harmonized Tariff System code prefix for toilet paper in rolls is 481810.
Below are the 25 countries that exported the highest dollar value worth of toilet paper in rolls during 2019.
- China: US$1.1 billion (23.5% of total exported toilet paper)
- Germany: $373.3 million (8.3%)
- France: $201.8 million (4.5%)
- Sweden: $201.6 million (4.5%)
- Canada: $191.3 million (4.3%)
- Italy: $185.2 million (4.1%)
- United States: $177.2 million (4%)
- Poland: $170.5 million (3.8%)
- El Salvador: $159.6 million (3.6%)
- Mexico: $119.8 million (2.7%)
- United Kingdom: $114.4 million (2.6%)
- Portugal: $113.3 million (2.5%)
- Austria: $104.8 million (2.3%)
- Spain: $102.7 million (2.3%)
- Egypt: $98.5 million (2.2%)
- Belgium: $92.8 million (2.1%)
- Slovakia: $86.2 million (1.9%)
- Turkey: $63 million (1.4%)
- Netherlands: $60.8 million (1.4%)
- Malaysia: $58 million (1.3%)
- Slovenia: $55.6 million (1.2%)
- United Arab Emirates: $45.9 million (1%)
- Guatemala: $39.4 million (0.9%)
- Switzerland: $39.3 million (0.9%)
- Serbia: $39.1 million (0.9%)
The listed 15 countries shipped 88.1% worth of all toilet paper exported in 2019 by value.
Among the top exporters, the fastest-growing toilet paper exporters since 2015 were: Portugal (up 103%), Turkey (up 102.1%), Malaysia(up 55.4%), Serbia (up 52.7%), Netherlands (up 43%), El Salvador (up 40%) and Switzerland (up 35.3%).
Those countries that posted declines in their exported toilet paper sales over the 5-year period were led by: United States (down -37.6%), Egypt (down -20.3%), Italy (down -16.6%), Slovakia (down -12.7%), Canada (down -0.9%) and United Arab Emirates (down -0.3%).
Anyone who has ventured into a local supermarket lately, or who has at least been on social media over the last few days, has probably seen the supermarket photos.
The novel coronavirus has apparently touched a nerve with the public that has sent the masses to the supermarket in throngs, reminiscent of a Nor’easter or, perhaps, something more dystopian: a Hunger Games-esque mission to survive.
But they’re not just buying the anticipated cleaning products and paper towels. They’re also buying toilet paper. And New Englanders aren’t the only ones panic buying toilet paper; it’s reportedly happening throughout the country and elsewhere.
There’s a reason for it, according to a Boston University professor, and it has to do with a thing called “zero risk bias.”
“When faced with an uncertain situation, people feel better if they can eliminate one risk,” Dr. Jay Zagorsky, a senior lecturer with BU’s Questrom School of Business, said in an email to Boston.com. “Bulk buying toilet paper eliminates the small risk of running out if quarantined. People might not be able to eliminate the risk of catching coronavirus but they can eliminate the risk of running out of toilet paper, which makes most people feel they have some control in this very uncertain situation.”
Zagorsky detailed the phenomenon in a recent piece for The Conversation. He said this also isn’t the first time TP has been a most-sought-after commodity. It happened in the U.S. in 1973 when people were already afraid of losing other things, like electricity or gas. The government warned of a potential toilet paper shortage, but panic didn’t ensue until Johnny Carson made a joke about it on television, tipping off a panic to hoard rolls upon rolls.
Vivek Sankaran, president and CEO of Albertson Companies, the parent of Shaw’s and Star Market, asked customers to respect the limits in a letter to customers.
“In many markets, we are asking customers to respect quantity limits of select, high-demand items (like hand sanitizers and household cleaners) to help ensure more of our neighbors can find the products they need. We’re refilling high-demand products as quickly as we can,” Sankaran said in the letter.
Target also intends to limit high-demand items beginning this weekend, Chairman and CEO Brian Cornwell said in a letter to the community.
Cleanliness is also on the minds of those in the business. Ackles said cleaning that used to occur once or twice a day has been stepped up to four or five times a day. Workers have been given guidelines for themselves while working. Roche Brothers also shut down its salad, food, and olive bars as a precaution.
Overall, Ackles noted that the country is in uncharted territory.
“This is a new thing for everybody,” he said. “It’s a new thing for the Board of Health, a new thing for our country. I think the best thing we can do is work together as much as we can.”