Cardboard Box Shortage Is Latest Disruption to Global Shipping

Employees check a stack of cardboard at the end of a conveyor at a Visy Industries Australia Pty factory in Melbourne, Australia. (Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg)

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The latest hurdle to shipping goods in a world gripped by pandemic-driven supply chain disruptions is a shortage of cardboard boxes, according to one of the world’s biggest makers of the material.

The supply chain is “very stretched” and making and shipping high-demand packing materials to customers is expected to remain tough in the first quarter of 2022, International Paper Chief Financial Officer Tim Nicholls said Jan. 27 on an earnings call.

While e-commerce has fueled demand for packaging, pandemic-related labor shortages and shipping constraints are also making it harder to make and deliver the boxes used to carry everything from food to consumer goods.

“What we’ve got is a fair amount of demand and orders but the inability to get it made or get it shipped,” CEO Mark Sutton said. “Shipments will be choppy in January and most of February.”

Sutton expects production disruptions to ease in the second quarter as the omicron wave of the pandemic wanes.

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