55% fall in newsprint imports in the past five years

India’s newsprint imports fell from 13,84,056 kg in the financial year 2017-18 to 5,97,766 kg in 2021-22, union information and broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur informed the Lok Sabha on 26 July.

03 Aug 2022 | By Dibyajyoti Sarma

India’s demand for newsprint is at around 2.2 MT, of which 68% was met by imports

Thakur said in 2017-18 the newsprint import was at 13,84,056 kg, which kept on falling in the successive years, except for a slight increase in 2019-20. 

According to the data shared by the government, the import of newsprint declined by more than 50% due to the pandemic and it dipped even further in the following years. The newsprint import fell to 5,97,766 kg in 2021-22 from the 13,84,056 kg purchased in 2017-18.

The newspaper industry had imported 13,84,056 kg of newsprint in 2017-18, which declined to 6,48,620 kg in 2020-21. This further declined to 5,97,766 kg in 2021-22.

Thakur also said the newspaper industry had imported 12,96,300 kg of newsprint in 2018-19, which remained almost stable in 2019-20 when 12,96,354 kg was purchased. 

The minister said that the government has received representations from the newspaper industry for a reduction/redemption on the customs duty of newsprint, which is being examined by the Ministry of Finance. 

Earlier, the Basic Customs Duty (BCD) rate of 10% was imposed on newsprint, which was subsequently reduced to 5% with effect from 2 February 2 2020. 

However, regarding domestic production of newsprint and local demand from the newspaper industry, the minister said the government doesn’t maintain such data. He added that the import figures were from the commerce ministry.

Meanwhile, newsprint prices, which had gone below USD 300 in 2020, have again started going up, touching USD 670-700 per tonne in the last couple of months. According to the Indian Newspaper Society (INS), the prices are expected to go up to USD 730 by the third quarter of FY22.

The figures presented on the website of the Indian Newsprint Manufacturers Association (INMA) show that India’s demand for newsprint is at around 2.2 million tonnes per annum, but a staggering 68% of this demand (1.5 million tonnes per annum) was met by imports — predominantly Canada and Russia.

This dependence on imports, the INMA website says, has also led to domestic capacity utilisation being reduced by more than 50%. Out of 125 registered paper mills in India, only 46 are operational. While Covid and the war have affected supply chains and newsprint prices have increased the world over, domestic manufacturers, too, have increased their price tags.