The suspension of the importation of raw materials for soft tissue paper products has hit the manufacturers hard and the industry stakeholders have expressed fears of potential closure of factories.

The local hygienic soft tissue manufacturing industry raised concerns of an inevitable shortage and eventually the non-availability of tissue paper products in the country, due to the short-sighted decision by the authorities.

As the manufacturers will not have access to the raw materials to make available the end-product, institutions such as hotels, restaurants, cafes, hospitals and airlines will be most impacted for not being able to offer their customers the minimum hygienic standards.

“The tourism industry at large, which is just experiencing a rebound, the private healthcare institutions as well as numerous manufacturers have a mandatory obligation in providing such sanitation standards and procedures to its hundreds and thousands of workers, patients, clients and tourists.

They will feel the shortage of these hygiene tissue products soon and abruptly,” said the newly-formed Hygienic Soft Tissue Paper Manufacturers Association in a statement. 

The existing buffer stock of raw materials is sufficient only until mid-September, after which the industry will not be able to fulfil the basic sanitary expectations.

As per the recent gazette notification, import restrictions have been imposed on jumbo reels under the HS codes 4803.00 and 4818.00. The first is for the manufacturing of facial tissues and toilet paper, whereas the latter is for the manufacturing of amenity tissue papers.

The industry urged the high-level authorities and key decision makers to delist or reverse the temporary suspension of the two HS codes. It also requested the authorities to allow the import of tissue paper raw materials in jumbo reels, which will allow the locally-owned factories to manufacture the hygienic and essential tissue product range with minimum hindrance.

 As the local manufactures have been able to successfully cater to the demand for soft tissue paper products in the country, there has been no requirement to import such products.  “The ‘import substitution’ production units based in several parts of the country and competing with the global brands, saves considerably in foreign exchange for the national economy. In addition to catering to the local market, the industry also exports to neighbouring countries, namely the Maldives,” the statement noted.  

The hygienic soft tissue manufacturing industry is relatively small compared to the other major industries. Nevertheless, its products contribute significantly to the country’s overall personal hygiene and hospitality standards. The hygiene soft tissue paper industry is a well-established industry in Sri Lanka since 1982, with over 40 years of manufacturing essential hygienic soft tissue products such as toilet rolls, paper serviettes, hand paper napkins, facial tissues, paper hand towels, industrial towels and rolls and various other related products.