Supply cuts that were supposed to bolster the beleaguered lumber market are now creating an unintended effect: the wood chips required to make sought-after toilet paper and wipes during the coronavirus pandemic are becoming more scarce.
Right now, about 25 per cent of Canadian sawmill capacity is shut after producers from West Fraser Timber Co. and Canfor Corp. idled operations amid a price slump and poor outlook for spring building as the coronavirus spreads. That’s reduced the output of wood chips that pulp mills rely on to make everything from toilet paper and wipes to cardboard boxes and paper bags, said Derek Nighbor, president and chief executive officer of the Ottawa-based Forest Products Association of Canada.
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Without federal aid to get some sawmill capacity back on line, input costs could rise or there could be a shortage of the materials pulp mills need for household products, he said. Panic buying has already caused shortages of toilet paper and other hygiene products in supermarkets around the world.