ALPENA - If you've experienced sticker shock when buying toilet paper, you're not alone. Although bargains can be found in Alpena, one discount store was selling12 rolls of Charmin Ultra Soft for $17.15.
A similar package in 2010 was priced at $6.99.
One reason for the fluctuation is because toilet paper is a forestry product, and Northeastern Michigan is loaded with aspen and poplar trees that go into the product, experts said.
"We've seen really dramatic increases in paper products two to three years ago - toilet paper, paper towels. There were huge increases them," said Ray Werda, store director for Neiman's Family Market.
"There is more paper in a roll than what there used to be 20 years ago," he said.
But because of single-ply, double-ply and other variations, price comparisons can be difficult, he said.
Decades ago, Michigan was home to several mills that produced toilet paper, but that number has steadily dwindled, said forester Don Krejcarek.
He blamed price increases on competition for wood pulp. Although timber is considered a renewable resource, the price for pulp wood has been going up, because more and more industries are using wood fiber in their products. This includes paper mills, press-board plants, wood byproduct industries, as well as the construction industry.
"We have a tremendous wood source growing here and we really want industry to bring wood processing plants back to the area," said Krejcarek, a retired forester with the U.S. Forest Service.
Area loggers are also facing stiff competition from China, he said. Loggers there are able to fell and ship poplar logs across oceans to domestic and global markets for less than it costs American loggers to supply mills.
"They're competing with our locally produced poplar," he said.
Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.