Coronavirus: condom shortage looms

1 April 2020

The world’s largest condom manufacturer has warned of an imminent shortage of the contraceptive devices.

Malaysian-based Karex said a countrywide lockdown had forced the company to shut down manufacturing in mid-March, and since that time it would have produced 100m condoms.

“The global condom shortage is already upon us, and with it a plethora of sexual health problems are threatening,” said Paul Liang, a marketing director at Karex.

The company, which produces 20% of the world’s condoms, said it had been granted an exemption as an essential industry last week, allow it to resume production at 50% capacity, and it was rushing to fill orders.

It said the shutdown of other condom producers’ factories in India and China had also contributed to the shortage.

“It will take time to jumpstart factories and we will struggle to keep up with demand at half capacity,” said Karex chief executive Goh Miah Kiat.

“We are going to see a global shortage of condoms everywhere, which is going to be scary,” he said. “My concern is that for a lot of humanitarian programmes… in Africa, the shortage will not just be two weeks or a month. That shortage can run into months.”

Malaysia is the world’s largest producer of natural rubber products and is home to the world’s top supplier of medical gloves, which is also warning of a global shortage owing to the government’s partial lockdown.

At a time when demand due to coronavirus is soaring worldwide, Malaysia supplies more than half of global demand for gloves.

The Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association has warned that under lockdown rules, which allow factories to operate with no more than half their usual workforce, rubber glove demand could outstrip production.

“There could be a chronic shortage of medical gloves in the battle to contain and suppress the Covid-19 coronavirus worldwide,” the association warned.

The association said factory owners had asked the International Trade and Industry Ministry to let them return to full production.

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