Covid-19 has led to a surge in demand for toilet paper, and concerns that tissue production and imports could grind to a halt. Yet logistics are adaptable and resilient, and UK companies have already prepared for any potential no-deal Brexit disruption. Sarah Laouadi, European policy manager of the UK-based Freight Transport Association, explains.
Around the world consumers have panic bought huge quantities of rolls in fear of future shortages in the supermarkets. It has been unprecedented in the UK. Yet while there are some areas of potential concern for the businesses in charge of protecting the supply chain, they are more than capable of handling the challenges ahead with the right support from government.
With most of the paper pulp used to produce tissue paper imported from mainland Europe, and, at the time of publishing with some European countries under intense lockdown, there are concerns that tissue production and import activity will come grinding to a halt and UK supplies could suffer as a result.
However, according to the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI), British manufacturers have substantial reserves of the raw materials used to make toilet rolls – enough to supply the public for months – so there is no need for concern should importation become difficult in the short-term.
Andrew Large, the group’s director- general, also highlights that toilet roll supply chains were strengthened recently by businesses undertaking Brexit preparations; many CPI members significantly increased their warehouse space to plan for border disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit and as such, have plenty of supply.
Furthermore, the raw materials needed to produce toilet paper are readily available across the globe, and as long as toilet paper manufacturers remain adaptable, alternative material sourcing is possible.
In a recent interview with i news, the managing director of Manchester-based toilet roll manufacturer Nova Tissue, Khurram Iqbal, explained he can source the raw materials needed to produce toilet paper from a number of countries on mainland Europe, and should those countries face lockdown, he can get his supplies from countries further afield, such as Turkey and Malaysia.
On the domestic front, the UK logistics sector can deliver all the toilet roll, food and other basic items required to meet the needs of the public during the Covid-19 outbreak, providing that people do not panic buy. Logistics businesses operate under a very lean business model, with deliveries made “just in time” to keep prices as low as possible, but empty shelves do not mean that stock is not on its way.
HGV drivers, warehouse staff, van drivers and other logistics workers continue to work under extreme pressure to ensure the UK’s supply chain remains functioning, but with the right support from the government and businesses, we are confident they can continue their essential work. The UK government has deemed these individuals to be ‘key workers’ so that they can focus their full attention on the pandemic effort.
Other recent developments will allow the sector to react more effectively to the pandemic. For example, the UK government has confirmed it will work with local authorities to extend the hours in which deliveries can be made to supermarkets and other retailers. This vital move will help to ensure shops remain stocked with toilet rolls during this period of unprecedented demand.
FTA continues to work closely with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Department for Transport (DfT), and other government departments to ensure the concerns of our members are heard and acted upon where possible; there is still much to be done to ensure the supply chain continues to operate as smoothly as possible.
FTA has launched a unique free web portal to help the logistics sector keep Britain moving and connected during the Covid-19 pandemic. The portal, which can be found at www.fta.co.uk/coronavirus, provides visitors with an overview of essential information and advice for the industry, the support provided by FTA, and the business group’s requirements of government at such a critical time.
Efficient logistics is vital to keep the UK trading, directly having an impact on more than seven million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods. With Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc.
This article was written for TWM by Sarah Laouadi, European policy manager of Freight Transport Association, a UK-based trade body. It is the only business group in the UK that represents all of logistics, with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers whose businesses depend on the efficient movement of goods.