Fears of toilet roll shortage as spiralling energy prices could trigger supply crisis

8 October 2021, 15:23

At the start of 2020 empty toilet roll aisles were seen in supermarkets across the UK.
At the start of 2020 empty toilet roll aisles were seen in supermarkets across the UK. Picture: Alamy

By Elizabeth Haigh

Manufacturers of toilet roll in the UK could be forced to cut production due to rising gas prices, it has been warned.

Fears have been raised of another shortage if firms have to restrict their manufacturing capabilities, which could happen within weeks.

Andrew Large, director-general at the Confederation of Paper Industries, said its members will be "affected very, very severely" by the rising gas costs.

He said toilet roll and food packaging would likely be the worst-hit areas.

He added: "It’s damaging their profitability and in some cases it’s causing them to manage their production rates so as not to expose themselves to the very, very highest costs."

When the pandemic first hit in 2020, supermarket shelves were rapidly stripped of toilet roll supplies.

Supermarkets were forced to impose shopping limits on essential items to ensure there were enough products for everyone.

Read more: Energy crisis: Govt adviser warns there is 'no quick fix' as gas prices spiral

The increasing costs are caused by wholesale gas prices hitting record highs, which have the potential to drastically increase consumer energy bills.

Analysts have predicted the energy price cap will rise to around £1,600 next summer - up from the current cap of more than £1,200.

Parliamentary Energy Adviser Dom Goggins told LBC’s Iain Dale this week that the issue was likely to go on until spring.

He said: "We have some specific issues in Britain and we approach the winter now with households facing huge increases, alongside rising inflation and add to that a cut in Universal Credit, and you’ve got a significant problem for an awful lot of households.

"There are some solutions to this, but there’s no quick fix to it."

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He went on to say the government needs to take action to fix the gas crisis: "They need to make sure that the price crisis we are going through now doesn’t become a supply crisis, because then we have got significant problems in the wider economy if that happens.

"Longer-term we have got to deal with the source of the problem.

"And for me, that fundamentally is about weaning ourselves and our whole economy off fossil fuels because volatility in the fossil fuel market, including gas, is the source of this problem."

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The National Grid electricity system operator said on Thursday the UK faces tight electricity supplies because of rising demand and capacity constraints but added that lights should not go out.

Energy and Business minister Kwasi Kwarteng said this week he thinks it is "going to be a difficult time".

"We may well see companies going out of the market," he told the Energy UK conference.

There have also been fuel shortages in recent weeks due to a lack of around 90,000 HGV drivers.

The government is issuing 5,000 temporary visas for drivers from abroad and has called in the army to help drive tankers.

Energy regulator Ofgem reviews the price cap once every six months.

The regulator said in a statement: "The energy price cap covers around 15 million households and will ensure that consumers don't pay more than is absolutely necessary this winter.

"However if global gas prices remain high, then when we update the price cap unfortunately the level would increase.

"Any customer worried about paying their energy bill should contact their supplier to access the range of support available."