"Toilet paper, which was one of the main deficit goods in the People's Republic of Poland, is now a hit for Polish export. It is sold mainly to Germany, and Poland is the world's third supplier of this everyday product," writes Marcin Lipka, Conotoxia Senior Analyst.
Practically throughout the entire period of the People’s Republic of Poland (PRL), toilet paper was extremely difficult for consumers to get their hands on as well as being a regulated commodity. Desirable and with a price tag much higher than its worth, it deserved to be called an iconic product, just like, for example, ham.
Anyone who spent even just a few years in this period will remember the grey paper hanging on a string or the trips to the scrap yard with a stack of newspapers, which would be exchanged in order to get this luxury item. Nowadays, for most of us there are, of course, no problems with purchasing toilet paper, but paradoxically, this is partly due to Poland.
400 thousand tons per year
According to the Polish Central Statistical Office (GUS) data, published in the Statistical Yearbook of Industry, in 2000, Poland produced only 115 thousand tons of toilet paper per year. Nowadays, due to the increase in production, it amounts to approximately 400 thousand tons per year, and in 2017, it amounted to 380 thousand tons.
Since production growth clearly exceeds the growth pace of demand, Poland has large surpluses of this hygiene product. Eurostat data show that Poles sent 70,000 tonnes of toilet paper to Germany alone (imports from Germany are less than 10,000 tonnes) in 2017, worth 92 million EUR. Poland is the largest EU supplier of paper to Germany. In second place is France, which supplies barely a third of what Poland does. How is Poland doing globally in this competition?
Global glorious podiums
According to data from The Observatory of Economic Complexity (prepared by "MIT Media Lab"), Poland ranks seventh among the world’s largest exporters of toilet paper. However, this ranking is harmful, as it does not show the impact of imports. For example, the USA is the fourth largest paper exporter in the world, but since imports exceed exports, Americans have to use supplies from Mexico.
Therefore, net exports, i.e. the difference between exports and imports, is a much more important indicator. In this statement (prepared also on the basis of MIT Media Lab), Poland ranks third in the world behind Italy and Sweden, accounting for 3.5% of global supplies of toilet paper. So exactly how many rolls are we talking?
Eurostat data show that Poland's net exports to the EU and outside the EU amount to around 80,000 tonnes of toilet paper per year. Assuming that a kilo of this sanitary product contains about 10 rolls, this means that Poland supplies the world, and especially Germany, with about 800 million rolls of toilet paper each year.