Medium: What Everyone’s Getting Wrong About the Toilet Paper Shortage

Will Oremus has written an article at Medium.com on What Everyone’s Getting Wrong About the Toilet Paper Shortage, pointing out that it has little to do with so-called hoarding. The fact is that people actually are using more toilet paper at home. There are similar problems with dairy products. With everyone staying at home and mostly eating at home, consumption of milk, butter, eggs, etc. is higher at home, now.

round the world, in countries afflicted with the coronavirus, stores are sold out of toilet paper. There have been shortages in Hong Kong, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. And we all know who to blame: hoarders and panic-buyers.

Well, not so fast.

Story after story explains the toilet paper outages as a sort of fluke of consumer irrationality. Unlike hand sanitizer, N95 masks, or hospital ventilators, they note, toilet paper serves no special function in a pandemic. Toilet paper manufacturers are cranking out the same supply as always. And it’s not like people are using the bathroom more often, right?

U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar summed up the paradox in a March 13 New York Times story: “Toilet paper is not an effective way to prevent getting the coronavirus, but they’re selling out.” The president of a paper manufacturer offered the consensus explanation: “You are not using more of it. You are just filling up your closet with it.”

Faced with this mystifying phenomenon, media outlets have turned to psychologists to explain why people are cramming their shelves with a household good that has nothing to do with the pandemic. Read the coverage and you’ll encounter all sorts of fascinating concepts, from “zero risk bias” to “anticipatory anxiety.” It’s “driven by fear” and a “herd mentality,” the BBC scolded. The libertarian Mises Institute took the opportunity to blame anti-gouging laws. The Atlantic published a short documentary harking back to the great toilet paper scare of 1973, which was driven by misinformation.

Most outlets agreed that the spike in demand would be short-lived, subsiding as soon as the hoarders were satiated.

No doubt there’s been some panic-buying, particularly once photos of empty store shelves began circulating on social media. There have also been a handful of documented cases of true hoarding. But you don’t need to assume that most consumers are greedy or irrational to understand how coronavirus would spur a surge in demand. And you can stop wondering where in the world people are storing all that Quilted Northern.

There’s another, entirely logical explanation for why stores have run out of toilet paper — one that has gone oddly overlooked in the vast majority of media coverage. It has nothing to do with psychology and everything to do with supply chains. It helps to explain why stores are still having trouble keeping it in stock, weeks after they started limiting how many a customer could purchase.

In short, the toilet paper industry is split into two, largely separate markets: commercial and consumer. The pandemic has shifted the lion’s share of demand to the latter. People actually do need to buy significantly more toilet paper during the pandemic — not because they’re making more trips to the bathroom, but because they’re making more of them at home. With some 75% of the U.S. population under stay-at-home orders, Americans are no longer using the restrooms at their workplace, in schools, at restaurants, at hotels, or in airports.

Georgia-Pacific, a leading toilet paper manufacturer based in Atlanta, estimates that the average household will use 40% more toilet paper than usual if all of its members are staying home around the clock…(continues)

Click here to read the entire article at Medium.com

Here is a video of a dairy farmer of Wagner Farms, talking about dairy item shortages and supply chains.

Reuters: U.S. Dairy Farmers Dump Milk as Pandemic Upends Food Markets

From Reuters news service comes a story that hits our region with a good number of dairies, U.S. dairy farmers dump milk as pandemic upends food markets

Dairy farmer Jason Leedle felt his stomach churn when he got the call on Tuesday evening.

“We need you to start dumping your milk,” said his contact from Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), the largest U.S. dairy cooperative.

Despite strong demand for basic foods like dairy products amid the coronavirus pandemic, the milk supply chain has seen a host of disruptions that are preventing dairy farmers from getting their products to market.

Mass closures of restaurants and schools have forced a sudden shift from those wholesale food-service markets to retail grocery stores, creating logistical and packaging nightmares for plants processing milk, butter and cheese. Trucking companies that haul dairy products are scrambling to get enough drivers as some who fear the virus have stopped working. And sales to major dairy export markets have dried up as the food-service sector largely shuts down globally.

The dairy industry’s woes signal broader problems in the global food supply chain, according to farmers, agricultural economists and food distributors. The dairy business got hit harder and earlier than other agricultural commodities because the products are highly perishable – milk can’t be frozen, like meat, or stuck in a silo, like grain.

Other food sectors, however, are also seeing disruptions worldwide as travel restrictions are limiting the workforce needed to plant, harvest and distribute fruits and vegetables, and a shortage of refrigerated containers and truck drivers have slowed the shipment of staples such as meat and grains in some places…

Click here to read the entire story at Reuters.

KIMA: Winter Storm Kills 1600 Dairy Cows in Region

From KIMA news. Stories of hardships caused by the recent storm continue to come:

YAKIMA, Wash.– Farmers have been devastated across the Yakima Valley, as strong winds of up to 80 miles per hour, and cold conditions have killed about 1,600 cows according to the Yakima Valley Dairy Farmers Association.

Yakima Valley Dairy Farmers are continuing to prepare as more snow is expected to hit the Valley, they’re adding extra bedding to insulate areas for cows to lay in, adding extra feed, and thawing water troughs with hot water.

“Without our employees, there’s no way we, or our cows could survive this storm,” Alyssa Haak , a dairy farmer in Prosser said. “To shield our cows from the wind we stacked straw bales to create a windbreak for our cows. I give a lot of credit to our milk truck drivers, too. Without their bravery, we wouldn’t be able to get our milk off the farm.”

Another farmer in Grandview says he’s been working around the clock to make sure his cows are being protected from the elements.

“These have been the worst few days of my life,” he said. “We’re just devastated. I don’t think we’ve ever been hit with weather like this.”

With severe winter weather continuing to occur in in eastern Washington throughout the next week, dairy farmers are assessing their current losses and preparing for the next round of snow and wind.

Farmers say that they are working together to help each other through these tough times.

Markus Rollinger, a Sunnyside dairy farmer stated, “Saturday was brutal. We put in a 36-hour day, but we’ve been fortunate. I’ve spent a lot of time helping my fellow dairy farmers and supporting what they’re going through,” Markus says. “My brother and I are trying to keep roads plowed for our employees and the milk trucks.”

Governor Inslee has declared a state of emergency for the state of Washington, which the farmers are hoping will lead to further assistance.

The dairy farmers say that they continue to cope with these conditions and over the next few days will be touch and go as they assess the damage and losses to their farm.