Condom makers stiffen production to meet shortages, but can they keep it up?

Coronavirus-related lockdowns are disrupting the contraceptive supply chain. But don’t expect a baby boom.


April 3, 2020

If you’re reading this, Ma, sorry about the puns. I’ll FaceTime you later.

For everyone else who’s still with us: Condom-makers are cranking up their operations to meet global demand for contraceptives, at a time when lockdowns are disrupting the rubbery supply chain.

Here’s a crazy stat you probably didn’t know

A company based in Malaysia — Karex Berhad — makes 1 out of every 5 condoms in the world. You may not be familiar with Karex, but you’ve probably heard of Durex, one of its most well-known brands.

Karex recently restarted its factories with a reduced workforce. Prior to that, The Guardian said its 3 Malaysian facilities hadn’t produced a single condom in more than a week. They got permission to resume because condom factories do count as essential businesses.

Elsewhere, Bloomberg reported that Thailand’s biggest condom manufacturer is at “maximum output.”

  • The Thai Nippon Rubber Industry Co. expects to churn out as many as 1.9B condoms this year — a 27% increase from its average annual supply.

The pandemic is causing problems for other forms of contraception, too — social distancing measures (not to mention layoffs that disrupt access to health insurance) have made it more difficult for some women to get birth-control prescriptions.

So is a coronavirus baby boom in our future?

You’ve heard the jokes: The generation of babies born 9 months from now will be christened coronitas, right?

Keep your pants on. The fact-checkers at USA Today found that there’s not much evidence to support the idea that a boom is inevitable. Experts said people tend to postpone kids in times of economic uncertainty. At best, it might be a “baby blip.”

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