This article originally appeared on VICE AU.
We have entered a new stage of the coronavirus outbreak. The World Health Organisation has declared the disease a global pandemic. Countries are in lockdown, stock markets are in freefall, and in at least one part of rural Australia cash has been supplanted by commodity.
Panic-buying preppers have diminished Australia’s toilet paper supply to the point where it is now being treated as currency, with one cafe in Far North Queensland offering to exchange coffee for loo roll. Jason Jaques, general manager Jaques Coffee Plantation in Mareeba, explained to the ABC that he discovered the impact of the great toilet paper hoarding spree when he noticed his cafe-restaurant was running low on the stuff, and his usual suppliers were completely out of stock.
"It was a pretty crappy situation when the staff informed me they'd contacted three or four of our local suppliers and they're all sold out of toilet paper as well," he said. "This is wholesale suppliers too, not just supermarkets."
And so, in an attempt to avoid running into a “critical” dearth of toilet paper, Jaques decided to start trading resources of his own in exchange for people’s excess product. Taking to social media, he offered to swap either a takeaway coffee for three rolls of toilet paper, or a one-kilogram bag of beans—valued at $42—for a pack of 36 rolls.
"I know toilet paper's out there, people are hoarding it, and I thought we could see if we could get a little bit off them... see who will bring some of the precious toilet paper," he said. "We obviously need to get more, and we've been promised more by suppliers, but it's going to start getting critical.
"We were starting to look at newspapers, paperbark trees, or even coffee leaves—that's how comical it became."
Some regular patrons took him up on the offer, trading nine rolls for three takeaway coffees, but for the most part Jacques’ calls went unanswered. He’s expecting some toilet paper to be delivered in the next few days, but said he’s going to continue bartering until he has enough to stock the cafe.
“[A few rolls is] part of the daily use here,” he said. “Coffee, it keeps some people regular and stuff, so they do go hand in hand.
"It's like toilet paper's a commodity in Australia now—that's how ridiculous it's got.”