Worldwide annual production of condoms is said to be approximately 25 billion. The world's largest manufacturer is Karex Berhad, which was founded in Malaysia in 1988. The condoms it produces are marketed under a variety of brand names in dozens of countries.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Karex temporarily halted production at three of its plants for several weeks in March through April. This, reports Shukan Jitsuwa (June 4) caused a backlog of orders, leading to shortages in some areas.
Japan may have been short of masks and toilet paper, but there were plenty of condoms in the shops. The magazine asked Okamoto, the holder of the top share of condoms among Japan's domestic manufacturers.
"There have been no interruptions in our production or sales," a company spokesperson told him. "We have factories both in Japan and overseas, such as in China; they are all operating smoothly."
The PR person for Fuji Latex, another major manufacturer, told Shukan Jitsuwa, "We've heard about the drop in Karex's production due to the coronavirus pandemic, but aren't aware of any shortages in condoms worldwide. Certainly it's had no effect on the manufacture or supply of our products, which are shipping to customers as planned."
A staff member of the marketing department at Fuji Latex did remark that "I don't know if the falloff of production at Karex will have any direct effect on us, but we've seen a considerable upsurge in orders of products sold via the net, including many from overseas. At the moment, though, we haven't been able to analyze the details -- more time is needed."
A marketing expert tells the magazine he believes it's entirely possible that the upswing in online sales is a direct consequence of a shortage of condoms in Asia.
It looks like demand for condoms may also be swelling in Japan. As the analyst puts it, "When the stay-home request was issued on April 7, the number of office workers doing telework from home increased rapidly. This necessarily resulted people spending more time with their spouse or lover, and I suppose opportunities for sex increased commensurately. Which boosted demand for condoms," he explained.
After the government of India announced a lockdown on March 24, it was reported that demand for condoms in that country rose between 25% and 35% in the space of one week. Reports from Australia have noted a similar rise.
"People in the past purchased them in drugstores or convenience stores, but due to home-stay requirements, more people have been ordering them via online," said the aforementioned source. "Customers are finding them easy to purchase that way, and I suppose online sales have increased in Japan as well."
A person involved in the health care industry noted that demand for condoms has been on the increase worldwide. "Manufacturers in Japan have sufficient raw materials on hand, and there's nothing to restrain factory output. What's more, they enjoy popularity because of the high technology that goes into their production. While certain countries require condoms to clear certain standards, I suppose this is a good opportunity for Japanese makers to increase market share abroad."
In response to favorable prospects, shares of the condom makers being traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange have reportedly soared.
"People buy condoms both for protection from disease and for birth control," said the above healthcare industry source. "Growth in sales is a sign of greater intimacy between married partners and couples. But if a shortage were to develop, that might lead to baby boom, which in Japan's case would be a welcome development," he said.
Which, nodded the writer, brings to mind an old Japanese saying that goes, Wazawai tenjite fuku to nasu (Turn a potential disaster to one's advantage.)© Japan Today