Bags of plaster are being sold for up to £50 on eBay and Facebook – more than seven times the normal retail price.
The building industry is facing a ‘massive shortage’ caused by the coronavirus lockdown.
Tradesmen and small building firms are struggling to get their hands on supplies as the main factories build back up to full capacity after being temporarily closed at the start of the pandemic.
It’s thought a surge in DIY and home improvements being carried out by people on furlough is also contributing to the demand.
And that’s led to some opportunist pricing.
On Facebook Marketplace one seller from Sale in Trafford was offering bags of 20kg Polish Gipsar Plus plaster for £50, while on eBay one seller was advertising 25kg bags of Thistle Multi-Finish for £49.95.
Several other sellers are offering individual bags for £20-25, when normally they’d be on sale for around £7.
And there’s even stories in the trade of thieves breaking into building sites just to steal pallets of plaster.
Tony Rowe, who owns building supplier Pertonstore in Farnworth, said: “Everybody is struggling to get hold of it.
“Everybody’s on allocations.
“We’re getting 20 pallets every six weeks from British Gypsum [the Uk’s main manufacturer of plaster] – normally we’d get that every fortnight.
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“But everybody’s in the same boat, from the small independent suppliers like us to the big boys like B&Q and Travis Perkins.
“We can get it from overseas, from Saudi Arabia, France and Ireland, but it’s just not as good as British Gypsum. It’s harder to work with and it doesn’t give as good a finish, so the plasterers just won’t work with it.
“We’re looking after our regular customers and the trade. We’ve also being supplying work at Bolton and Manchester hospitals. We continued to trade throughout lockdown, mainly so we could keep supplying the hospitals.
“Every day we must get 20 people ringing up asking for plaster. We’re putting everybody on a waiting list, but that’s five A4 sheets of paper long now and there’s people who have been on it for two and a half months.
“There’s just a massive shortage and we can’t sell to everybody.”
Last week Mark Roberts, a building supplier, from Middleton, told how he’d had trouble getting his hands on plaster ever since the UK went into lockdown.
He said: “It’s been a nightmare.
“Everyone is asking for it. It is like gold dust.
“People are flogging it forridiculous prices. One of my mates paid £20 a bag for it. It is usually £7.”
John Newcomb, CEO of the Builders Merchants Federation, told the Manchester Evening News the shortage is expected to be resolved in the coming weeks.
He said: “The latest information shows that plaster continues to be challenging in terms of supply.
“There are a number of reasons behind that.
“We have pent up demand as a result of manufacturers and many merchants closing in April following the Government messaging of stay at home. Plaster available was prioritised for essential projects, particularly the NHS.
“We’ve also seen more DIY/consumers on furlough renovating their homes too.
“Finally, there has been an increase in the number of contractors returning to work and trying to complete plastering work over the summer.
“However, with manufacturing now in place to a high output, the situation is improving and will be resolved in the weeks ahead.”
In a statement last week British Gypsum managing director Matt Pullen, said its plaster manufacturing plants were working at ‘maximum capability’.
He added: “We have delivered 130 more truckloads of plaster to the market through June than we did during the same month last year and our weekly supply is now higher than when we closed at the end of March based on Government advice.
“We will continue at these increased levels until we see demand and supply back in balance.
“We are sending more than 400 trade loads of product every day to our usual merchant, distributor and DIY stockists across the UK according to their allocation volumes.
“We acknowledge however, that not all of our customers can still get product from their usual stockists at the time it is needed. All of our British Gypsum colleagues are committed to meeting this ongoing demand and helping our merchant, distributor and DIY stockists to replenish their stocks.
“We will continue with our allocation process for both plasterboard and plaster, to ensure fair supply of available product until we are confident that supply is meeting the ongoing demand.”