PLASTERING firms are having to wait five weeks for plaster because of production problems at the country's biggest manufacturer, British Gypsum.
The firm is extending its state-of-the-art factory at Barrow-on-Soar to increase the plant's output by 30 per cent from this September.
But its ongoing production capacity has been hit by a series of commissioning problems with new equipment being installed at the Leicestershire plant.
British Gypsum managing director John Colley admitted: 'This has impacted on production and reduced output below anticipated levels. The situation has been exacerbated by widespread panic buying.'
The problem has mainly hit finishing plaster and deliveries to builders merchants are not expected to be back to normal until the autumn. Federation of Plastering and Drywall Contractors director Emma Ayad said:
'Normal delivery is within one or two days. But deliveries are moving at five weeks.'
She added: 'Larger companies are getting preferential treatment and it is the smaller companies which are being affected more.'
Oxfordshire builder Hall Construction is among many of the small builders suffering.
Owner Phillip Hall said: 'Recently we needed 70 bags of plaster and got half of what we wanted. We are having to delay work as a result.'
The country's second-biggest producer, German firm Knauf, has been swamped by desperate merchants and has also had to introduce rationing. Marketing director Ian Stokes said: 'We cannot take on new customers.'