OSLO (Reuters) - Southern Norway is in the midst of a diaper shortage after a supermarket price war lured enterprising bulk shoppers from eastern Europe who have cleaned out the shelves, customs officials and retailers said.
Norway is one of the world's most expensive countries. However, supermarkets in the south trying to lure local customers by undercutting rivals on the price of "nappies" inadvertently made it profitable enough for residents of nearby countries to start trading in them.
"They buy every last diaper, I mean everything we have on the shelves, throw it in the back of their car and take them home, where they sell it for a nice profit," says Terje Ragnar Hansen, a regional director for retail chain Rema 1000.
"It's not stealing and it's not even criminal but it's a big problem, ... they leave nothing for our regular customers.
Customers come into Norway from Sweden, drive along the coast to fill their cars, then take a ferry back to the continent, said Helge Breilid, the chief of customs in Kristiansand on Norway's southern coast.
Some have been stopped with diapers worth up to 50,000 crowns ($9,100), roughly 80,000 diapers, a legal shipment even though Norway is not part of the European Union.
"They told us that the only reason they came to Norway was to drive around and buy diapers to bring back home and resell," Breilid said.
"These people mainly come from Poland and Lithuania, and we have no reason to believe that they are part of any criminal gangs."
Norwegian diapers cost as little as 30 crowns ($5.47) for 50, less than half of the prevailing price in Lithuania. Coincidentally, the Internet is heaving with Lithuanian sellers advertising Norwegian diapers.
($1 = 5.4831 Norwegian krones)
(Reporting by Joachim Dagenborg, editing by Paul Casciato)