Toilet paper shortages – why is Australia not a net exporter?

It was a relief to learn that Australia is 80 per cent self-sufficient in toilet paper and there is, therefore, no need for panic buying.

But hang on a minute.  First, that 80 per cent is for a market that has suddenly grown – perhaps doubled.  So, there may indeed be a shortage.

What should be more worrisome is that Australia is only 80 per cent self-sufficient in an industry sector which we should be a massive net exporter.  We actually import 50 per cent more wood and paper products than we export.

In days of yore, governments were always looking for value-added industries that could leverage off our natural advantages.  Because we had cheap energy and bauxite, we were world leaders in aluminium production and this led to fantasies that we’d become a key part of the global supply chains for industries like automobiles (engines) and – I kid you not – for windmills (blades).  Governments sank considerable funding into these ventures.

They were doomed by the labour market arrangements that, with the connivance of governments and the legal system, have priced Australia out of so many world markets.  They were doomed once again by an energy market policy that has subsidised renewables and transformed Australia from the lowest to among the highest cost energy nations in the world.

Wood industries were also earmarked as promising.  After all, even though only about 14 per cent of Australia is forested, this gave a wood availability per capita that was among the highest in the world.  Moreover, the woodlands are in the right places and they too could benefit for the abundance of the (now mythical) cheap energy.

But such forecasts not only underestimated the capacity of Australian Governments to wreck the energy industry, they failed to recognise politicians’ susceptibility to other green forces that would close down the forestry industry.  Forest industry output is increasing by only 1-2 per cent a year, in spite of massive investment in plantations, as areas are progressively closed off from logging,

Closing off areas for logging (the Peoples Republic of Victoria is in the process of a new slew of such closures) not only deprives the nation of valuable output but also contributes to creating yesterday’s newsworthy item, bushfires.  Notwithstanding CSIRO’s feeble attempts, utterly demolished by Matt Canavan, to portray the fires as a feature of global warming, it is clear that their spread is due to the prevention of tree thinning and management of land that comes with forestry and the roads and heavy machinery that is concomitant with it.

Perhaps coronavirus will lead to an awakening.  Probably not.

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60 Responses to Toilet paper shortages – why is Australia not a net exporter?

  1. Tel

    Closing off areas for logging (the Peoples Republic of Victoria is in the process of a new slew of such closures) not only deprives the nation of valuable output but also contributes to creating yesterday’s newsworthy item, bushfires.

    Save the trees from the logging industry so we can watch them burn every 15 years.

    You know it makes sense.

  2. The Greens fantasy of sacred trees has become so rampant, that dead trees are more revered than live ones. I’ve often wondered what colonies of wildlife exist in a dead tree that’s only six inches in diameter at the base, but can’t be cut down because it’s so valuable.

  3. Bela Bartok

    I worked in the paper industry and saw mill closures in Tasmania (thanks Greenfilth) and then the last fine paper manufacturer in Australia close at Shoalhaven. The big Chinese mills were 10x the size and the milk couldn’t operate at full capacity because the Aussie paper was so much more expensive than imports.
    The recycled paper came in bales from South America, as the only recycling plant in Victoria was closing.

  4. Roger

    The Greens fantasy of sacred trees has become so rampant…

    …that we are in desperate need of a modern day St Boniface.

  5. Bela Bartok

    Mill not milk dammit

  6. Arky

    Comparative advantage old man.

  7. Arky

    As it all fucking disintegrates around us, I’m going to drag you libertarian swine back to those comparative advantage comments repeatedly.
    Not because I’m an arsehole (I am), but because when you made those comments you showed a complete disregard for this country and a level of stupidity that can’t be let slip past.

  8. Arky

    You watched for decades as people were kicked out of work due to union thuggery, over bearing regulation, crony capitalism and mismanagement.
    And your constant, smirking refrain was “competitive advantage”.
    And now you have nothing to wipe your arse on.

  9. Iampeter

    What is this “toilet paper?”
    Is that the primitive tool that naked savages used before the invention of wet wipes?

    Not because I’m an arsehole (I am), but because when you made those comments you showed a complete disregard for this country and a level of stupidity that can’t be let slip past.

    You mean you’re just going to double down on not knowing what you’re talking about?
    No one is surprised.

  10. Ed Case

    the fires as a feature of global warming, it is clear that their spread is due to the prevention of tree thinning and management of land that comes with forestry

    1939 bushfire RC found that massive piles of sawdust and waste were also a hazard when the fires started.
    Basically what were the timberworkers supposed to do? Set the things alight and smoulder for weeks covering wide areas with ground level smoke or leave it go and hope for the best?
    Is it possible that forestry can’t work in large eucalypt forests and the better approach is bulldozers to create small manageable forests and deploy large scale water retention techniques on the deforested areas ?
    Rather than believe the best way to solve all problems is by trying to make a quid out of it?

  11. Roger

    Lo, then the locusts in human form descended on the wet wipes.

    And there were lamentations across the social media landscape.

  12. Ellie

    Arky – I see you despise Libertarianism. What is your political bent?

    PS. There is plenty of toilet paper where I shop. Quilton 4 ply.

  13. Struth

    Perhaps coronavirus will lead to an awakening. Probably not.

    Probably?
    Probably?

    Too much corruption for “probably”…………………………………….

  14. Pyrmonter

    In days of yore, governments were always looking for value-added industries that could leverage off our natural advantages.

    No, they didn’t. That would suggest they’d (a) solved the socialist calculation problem and (b) were benevolent dictators. At most, governments have an indirect interest in the perceptions of wellbeing of marginal voters in marginal seats. That can sometimes yield good policy programs (Fightback!) but more often doesn’t – as the irrationality of our CO2 control policies show amply.

  15. Iampeter

    You watched for decades as people were kicked out of work due to union thuggery, over bearing regulation, crony capitalism and mismanagement.

    It’s the people advocating for things like regulating trade and immigration that are calling for union thuggery, over bearing regulation and crony capitalism.
    Not the “libertarians” describing the capitalist process of comparative advantage.

    Only at the Cat do we have leftists arguing against leftism only to end up advocating leftism.

  16. notafan

    Australian production had been ramped up and I suspect that the importer product is the no name type cheap product you see at $2 shops.

    But you are correct.

    We should be net exporters.

    It’s a very silly situation that is annoying for non hoarders.

    Why would anyone bother to pip in with a not near me?

    Very special.

  17. Ed Case

    Heres the reason low info people are going nuts on TP:
    165. Toilet Paper – If stores close down, toliet paper will skyrocket in demand, store up on some now. Get those commercial rolls, with 1000 sheets. A simple way to gauge your needs for 1 year, is to mark how many rolls do you go through in a week. Then multiply this number by 52. If you use 2 rolls per week in your household, then you will need 104 rolls. Remember this will always be a great bartering item.
    Above from a random site. Search for Preppers list. Hundreds of those and the advice is always the same future masters of the universe will have a shedload of TP.

  18. egg_

    You watched for decades as people were kicked out of work due to union thuggery, over bearing regulation, crony capitalism and mismanagement.

    Gummint Motors (Ford/Holden) were producing cars people weren’t buying after 2 terms of hard Labor.

  19. Chris M

    Toilet paper is ridiculously expensive in Australia, in the USA it costs well less than half and down to around a quarter on sale. No country is going to import it unless perhaps they make some high end luxury version or something.

  20. egg_

    then the locusts in human form descended on the wet wipes.

    Wait till the Mummybloggers get wind of that!

  21. egg_

    Is that the primitive tool that naked savages used before the invention of wet wipes?

    Got a M0nstrous @rse to wipe?

  22. Farmer Gez

    The reason that we produce 80% of our own toilet paper is the freight component of the imported product. It’s light and takes up a shitload of space in shipping containers.
    The fact that any imported product enters Australia is down to our absurdly high cost structures and a lack of cheap and abundant wood.
    Lots of plantation Blue Gums and Radiata Pines around Millicent SA and therefore a mill. Short movement of heavy logs and a large domestic market in the SE of Australia.
    We wouldn’t stand a chance in the export market because of freight and the imported product is only viable because it is so cheap in the producer country, so the landed cost is low enough to compete on our shelves.

    In business it’s called import parity pricing – farmers know it well.

  23. Farmer Gez

    I should add – Alan Moran should know this. The article is pointless considering our high cost economy.

  24. …store up on some now.

    If it comes down to that, I’ll go for a crap naked and then wash my arse in the shower. Those with bidets only need a towel handy.

  25. egg_

    It’s light and takes up a shitload of space in shipping containers.

    Hence, if the chunks are selling it on the black market back home, they must be getting a good price for it.

  26. Tel

    In business it’s called import parity pricing – farmers know it well.

    Economics!! Gaaahr it’s been a while.

    I was listening to Peter Schiff talking about the concept of prices going up in times if high demand and why that’s what you want because it ensures the produce goes to the people who need it.

    Then he says, “If the prices didn’t go up, the whole lot would go to the first handful of people who came along and they would just resell it on the black market!”

    Well I’ll be darned.

  27. Neil

    That is why it is good we make ethanol in Australia and the industry should be supported. Engines can run on ethanol but it does have problems.

    But I have purchased garlic cloves at ALDI which said Made in China and baby beetroot in a bottle which said Made in the UK from British beetroot.

    I must admit I was surprised to find out most of our toilet paper is made here

  28. Stanley

    Time for some light relief…….Tom Lehrer “I got it from Agnes”

  29. Nighthawk the Elder

    Neil
    #3346222, posted on March 7, 2020 at 3:37 pm
    That is why it is good we make ethanol in Australia and the industry should be supported. Engines can run on ethanol but it does have problems.

    Way back when, CSIRO (remember when they were actually a research body) were looking at eucalyptus oil (which we also make) as an additive to ethanol based fuels to overcome some of these problems, especially water absorption. This was pre-climate catastrophe days so they probably got distracted and never finished the work.

    As per Alan’s question, why are we not a net exporter of dunny roll? From what I’ve been seeing and reading, a significant portion of the hoarded toilet paper is being sent overseas by the baby formula brigade. So in a weird way, we could soon become a net exporter, except it won’t show up in the balance of trade figures.

  30. notafan

    Definitely going overseas via the personal shopper route.
    And
    Rude comment about not actually ever using it themselves

  31. Neil

    as an additive to ethanol based fuels to overcome some of these problems, especially water absorption.

    It is strange but some people who post here do not want to support Manildra.

    We are making less and less stuff here and making ethanol helps our security. Ethanol has its problems but it is better than having nothing to drive our cars

  32. Ethanol has its problems

    Not when it’s part of alcohol.

    And when people say that alcohol is not a solution, technically it is a solution.

  33. notafan

    Why do we need to ‘support’ Manildra?

    If they can produce and sell ethanol for a profit good luck to them.

  34. Neil

    I guess because Manildra has to compete with people who get govt subsidies.

    Plus because they help our security. In trouble u can run cars on ethanol

    Its a security issue

  35. notafan

    I’d prefer us to ramp up local oil exploration and refining

  36. Neil

    WEll it looks like Mandira can compete with a little help but oil refining cannot.

    WE now import all our oil.

    Manildra is a backup in times of trouble

  37. Old Lefty

    Farmer Gez makes a good point about why only20 per cent of loo paper is imported: it takes up a lot of space on ships.

    That’s also the reason, according to a friend in the supermarket business, why supermarkets have been running out so fast. It’s a low-value item that takes up a lot of space, so it isn’t economical for shops to keep big reserves of it on hand. ‘Just in time’ stocking is more cost-effective.

  38. Neil

    It’s a low-value item that takes up a lot of space, so it isn’t economical for shops to keep big reserves of it on hand. ‘

    I went to ALDI on Wednesday and all the toilet paper was gone. I went on Thursday and there was some in stock but I did not buy any because I did not need it and was a little embarrassed. Went today (Saturday) and where the toilet paper used to be was replaced by their weekly specials.

    Looks like ALDI took the emergency to get rid of selling toilet paper

  39. notafan

    I doubt it..

    Most likely they can’t get resupply atm

  40. Neil

    Possibly. I guess I will find out in a few weeks time. But ALDI that I shop at has filled up all the shelves that used to be stocked with toilet paper with their weekly specials

    But having a company in Australia like Manildra that makes ethanol gives us some energy security

  41. notafan

    Yes because stores don’t like empty shelves.

    Nothing sinister about it.

  42. Neil

    Sounds like u want a fight. Not sure why?

    I just mentioned that shelves used to be stocked by toilet paper are now stocked by ALDIs weekly specials.

    Not sure why u want to fight to the death about something like that?

  43. mem

    Toilet paper is a basic, If you don’t stock it the customers don’t come through your door. In times of strife people hoard and will even pay more for it. Remember, if you have done economics what happened in Ireland when there was a potato shortage, prices went up and people bought more and were willing to forgo other purchases to do so. It was the opposite of the supply and demand curve.

  44. Chris M

    I have purchased garlic cloves at ALDI which said Made in China

    It’s bleached, notice how white it is? Chinese people don’t trust their own food products as the country is polluted and will pay considerably more for ours. The Aussie garlic costs only a little more and is a good product. I’m avoiding any communist made products that I possibly can, now the world is suffering because of them.

  45. Squirrel

    Any outbreak of common sense is unlikely to last for long (short-sighted greed being what it is), but this episode might cause some re-thinking of the wisdom of Just In Time, and of supply chains which are so reliant on a manifestly less than benign nation.

  46. Tel

    Another day another bogroll.

    I love the Aussie garlic with the purple stripe down one side but it’s often not available. Must be dose dang pweppers at it again. When I have it available I cut the peeled clove into thin slices and drink slowly with brandy. It’s the only known cure for coronavirus and also happens to confer immortality, but mostly it keeps other people away … and that’s fine.

    You can preserve peeled garlic cloves in salt and vinegar (if you can get those) but not as good as fresh by any means. Nevertheless, my ancestors somehow survived seasonal availability so too shall I.

  47. notafan

    I’ve heard a little bit about that potato shortage in Ireland.

    No biggie as I recall.

    Less spent on colour tvs more on potatoes.

  48. calli

    Aussie garlic has the rootplate still on it. That’s how you can tell local from imported.

    Also, Aussie garlic is much stronger and more peppery.

  49. notafan

    Not fighting.

    Just saying you are reading something in to aldi not having supply of a staple that makes no sense.

    I think drawing the conclusion that also will now permanently cease stocking toilet paper is silly and using the fact that they stuck specials on empty shelves as evidence also silly.

  50. Nighthawk the Elder

    I’m a little late back to the party.

    I have to confess, I’ve never heard of Manildra. Although I see it does exist in Google. I’ll have to do some reading and understand the ins and outs of the various replies.

    As for Aussie garlic, if you have the space, it will soon be time to plant. Don’t have to wait until June. I’ve successfully planted as early as April with success. I’ve also grown them in containers with reasonable results, although the bulbs tend to come out a bit smaller.

  51. mem

    Garlic only produces one crop annually and then it is done. Hence it has been seen an unprofitable use of land and labor in Australia. However in recent times some growers have realized you can grow garlic in spaces between other crops and as prices have gone up it has begun to make sense.It is a different variety with different qualities than say Italian or Asian garlic which is a very different variety altogether. I’m amazed that Aussie farmers in the drier parts near the coast don’t also grow capers for this would make sense for the same reason as garlic does.. Remember when no one in Aust grew olives?

  52. Remember when no one in Aust grew olives?

    Or when no one in Australia grew Limes?

  53. JC

    Remember, if you have done economics what happened in Ireland when there was a potato shortage, prices went up and people bought more and were willing to forgo other purchases to do so. It was the opposite of the supply and demand curve.

    Actually, I don’t “remember” that at all and I think you may be making it up or actually confusing the impact of sudden demand shifts in respect to prevailing price.

    Retailers would likely go to jail if they tested the market version of rationing, which would be to raise prices on paper products.

  54. Chris M

    A significant number of fruit and vegetable varieties common overseas are banned here by big daddy government who knows best for us.

  55. Cynic of Ayr

    A. TP usage is static.
    B. TP usage in the household does not depend positively on availability. I.E. the house dwellers do not “go” more often, because there is a lot of TP in the house.
    C. TP sales have doubled, tripled, quadrupled – whatever – because of the Virus.
    D. As the above is accurate to a large degree, soon, TP sales will drop by half, a third, a quarter – whatever – because of the Virus.
    E. As sales drop, TP manufacturers will be asking Government for a hand out, because – wait for it -sales have dropped, and the industry is in dire straits, because of the Virus.
    Ya gotta laugh. There is no other reaction.

  56. Retailers would likely go to jail if they tested the market version of rationing, which would be to raise prices on paper products.

    That sadly is what is so wrong with Australia.
    Instead they impose limits per person – works well, that reduces the trouble down to an hourly knife fight in the paper roll aisles.

  57. Up The Workers!

    “Toilet Paper – Why is Australia not a net exporter?”

    Because our scientifically-illiterate Leftards are all just a bunch of humongous arseholes!

    There.
    Fixed.

  58. Forest Stylist

    The intake trend in Australia pulp mills has seen recycled paper substituting for some wood fibre (pulp logs, woodchips, sawdust etc ) which is now exported.
    The recent fires will change this and some current log and chip exports are likely to be redirected domestically.

  59. Chester Draws

    I’m picking most of Australia’s imported toilet paper comes from New Zealand, which is effectively the same market. Complaining you don’t make it yourself in that regard is like complaining the South Australia is dependent on Victoria for its supplies.

    Australia doesn’t grow softwood trees half as well as NZ does. It does grow hardwood better, which is why NZ — full of trees — imports hard woods.

  60. old bloke

    Because we had cheap energy and bauxite, we were world leaders in aluminium production and this led to fantasies that we’d become a key part of the global supply chains for industries like automobiles (engines) and – I kid you not – for windmills (blades). Governments sank considerable funding into these ventures.

    We are world leaders in alumina production, supplying around 25% of global demand, but are very small producers of aluminium (the smelted product of alumina.) Australia’s aluminium production is intended for the local market only, high energy costs have killed off any chance of developing an export market.

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