Venezuela's Latest Shortage: Toilet Paper

Government to import 50M rolls

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted May 16, 2013 10:13 AM CDT

(Newser) – Amid milk and coffee shortages, Venezuela is now facing a sanitary crisis: There's not enough toilet paper to go around. "I'm 71 years old, and this is the first time I've seen this," said one man shopping for the stuff. "This is the last straw." Another shopper said she'd "been looking for it for two weeks." The government says it's the opposition's fault, and it plans to import 50 million rolls, as well as 760,000 tons of food. "We are going to saturate the market so that our people calm down," says commerce minister Alejandro Fleming.

State price controls are to blame, economists tell the AP. "Prices that are set below market-clearing price always result in shortages," says a Johns Hopkins professor. "The shortage problem will only get worse, as it did over the years in the Soviet Union." With too little foreign currency, companies have struggled to pay for outside supplies, leaving factories to run at just half capacity. But the commerce minister points the finger at "a media campaign that has been generated to disrupt the country," leading to "excessive demand."

A woman who just bought toilet paper at a grocery store reads her receipt as she leaves the private store in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, May 15, 2013.  First milk, butter, coffee and cornmeal ran short. Now Venezuela is running out of the most basic of necessities _ toilet paper. Economists...
A woman who just bought toilet paper at a grocery store reads her receipt as she leaves the private store in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, May 15, 2013. First milk, butter, coffee and cornmeal ran short....   (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
A woman who just bought toilet paper at a grocery store reads her receipt as she leaves the private store in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, May 15, 2013.
A woman who just bought toilet paper at a grocery store reads her receipt as she leaves the private store in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, May 15, 2013.   (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
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