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Not again: Toilet paper shortage possible as cargo ship blocks Suez Canal

The CEO of the world's largest wood pulp producer warns of supply issues.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The great toilet paper shortage of 2020 is threatening an encore.

Brazilian company Suzano SA, the world's largest producer of wood pulp, warns of supply issues in the weeks ahead because of the giant cargo container ship blocking traffic in Egypt's Suez Canal -- a critical global trade route, Bloomberg reports.

Wood pulp is the raw material used for various paper products, including toilet tissue.

"With demand surging for ships that carry ribbed steel containers, the squeeze is starting to spill over to break bulk and threatens to delay the company’s shipments," Suzano CEO Walter Schalka told Bloomberg, per Yahoo! Finance. He said toilet paper shortages could occur if producers don't have enough inventory.

The container ship has been stuck sideways in the Suez Canal since Tuesday just around 4 miles north of its southern entrance. Peter Berdowski, CEO of Boskalis, the salvage firm hired to extract the ship, said the company hopes to pull it free some time during the next several days.

Until the ship can get back on track, experts say the global supply chain will continue to face delays. About 10 percent of the world's trade flows through the canal, with about 19,000 ships passing through last year.

Some ships that can't go through the canal have been steered away and onto a longer course around Africa instead.

Consumers flocked to stores around the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic to purchase toilet paper, causing shortages that lasted for several weeks. One study suggested that those who were anxious and fearful about their health stockpiled the most compared to those who didn't make the bath tissue purchases.

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