Anand Limaye: “Paper mills are eliciting undue advantage of the demand-supply situation”

Anand Limaye, the Chairman, legal cell of AIFMP and head at India Printing Works, in his detailed appeal examines why the demand for anti-dumping duty by the Indian paper mills is dangerous for the printing industry

04 Apr 2018 | By Sriraam Selvam

The demand for anti-dumping duty by the Indian paper mills is unsubstantiated and ethically incorrect. Firstly, the petitioners have not described the technical specifications which can distinguish the copier paper to writing and printing paper, which are being sold as Creamwove and Maplitho. They have just specified the cut sizes. More importantly, the petitioners have not mentioned this category in the main plea. This means, it should have been in inverted commas, which is essential to be prescribed as 'Product Under Consideration' (PUC) required under the law.

The petitioners have challenged the presence of the AIFMP in this matter. I would like to clarify that we have all rights to attend and express our views as we have thousands of printer members not only from mofussil areas but even from urban areas. They regularly use this category of paper for their mini offset machines (popularly known as baby offset with masters for image carrying).

We strongly feel that the petitioners, by projecting copier paper, want to take "a backdoor entry" and cover the entire range of writing and printing paper, which also is being used by the printing fraternity on digital cut-sheet and sheetfed offset machines.

If the order is passed in its favour, we are afraid that it would be passed for the Tariff Code 4802 and then they would announce their game-plan with a logic like "all crows are black - it's black, hence it's crow" and the printing industry would come under their spell and suffer for three reasons. 

One, it would become the monopoly of Indian paper manufacturers. Two, despite imports being allowed, they are raising the paper prices without any proper justification. Three, sufficient notice is never given to buyers who in turn suffer a lot in contractual business and tenders and finally, it’s because of the poor demand-supply ratio in the Indian market.

We have proved that within a span of only nine months, from June 2016 to March 2017, the mills have taken undue advantage of the short supply situation of the market and increased the rates by 23.3%.

The short supply was due to the partial shutdown of two large paper mills. The Ballarpur unit suffered because of the company’s incorrect policy decisions to invest funds in SAGHA in Malaysia and TNPL on account of water shortage. Their turnover has plummeted for the above reasons and not due to the import of paper.

In the same period, several other mills have achieved par above excellence as far as production, sales and profits are concerned.

The imports increased to fill in the gap of shortages created by the above reason by taking undue advantage of the situation.

The petitioners have no case at all. They have not filed this petition on genuine grounds but with the ulterior motive to take advantage of the demand-supply ratio. We have already filed a complaint before Competition Commission of India regarding unreasonable price rise and cartelisation.

Other disadvantages of anti-dumping

The Indian printer becomes non-economical as compared to import of finished goods in case of books, since books are duty-free. This will lead to increase in import of finished goods and the Indian printing industry will suffer.

This will also lead to loss of employment since the printing industry is highly labour intensive.

More bank NPAs as printing machines are very expensive and are bought on loan.

Import of paper keeps domestic players under check from hoarding, cartel formation etc, since there are only few paper mills in India and there is not enough competition.

Printers enter into long term contracts with their clients with long validity of rates. These contracts are entered into keeping view of current market rates since printing industry is highly competitive. An abrupt increase in raw material cost due to anti-dumping will lead to a direct loss to printers who cannot ask for any increase in rates as per contract terms from their clients. This will in turn dampen the industry morale.

The proposed solution

The raw material used to produce duty-free goods should also be made duty-free. For example, the paper used in printing of books should be imported duty-free or custom duty should be imposed on imported books.

In order to encourage the domestic industry, including paper mills, the duty on imported pulp (raw material) should be reduced so as to make them more competitive as compared to foreign paper mills or one must look into ways to make domestic pulp easily available.