Can't spare a square: Behind the toilet paper panic in Taiwan

Can't spare a square: Behind the toilet paper panic in Taiwan

Taiwanese supermarket shelves have been stripped bare by people panic-buying toilet paper.

The weekend shopping frenzy came as suppliers warned the price of the household staple was on the rise.

Here's how the story unrolled.

Suppliers give a bum steer?

On Friday, toilet paper suppliers told Taiwanese supermarkets they would raise prices by 10 to 30 per cent from next month.

The suppliers said the increase was caused by the higher cost of pulp, the raw material used to make tissues.

One of the largest suppliers, YFY Inc, said the cost of transportation and packaging had also gone up.

Taiwan's state-owned Central News Agency (CNA) reported consumers would have to pay NT$260 ($11.32) for every 12-pack of toilet paper, up from NT$200 ($8.71).

The news prompted the government to announce it would investigate whether suppliers had colluded to undermine market order.

No square to spare

Photos posted to social media on the weekend showed shoppers rushing to stock up on toilet paper.

But some consumers were met with nothing but empty shelves.

The Department of Consumer Protection said supermarkets would be able to restock, while the Taipei Times reported all of the island's four major supermarket chains had promised not to raise retail prices or hoard merchandise.

Department director-general Wu Cheng-hsueh said the chains had already set their sales plans and were prepared to sell toilet paper all-year round.