Imports of paper and paperboard up 39% in Q1FY24

According to the latest data issued by the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence & Statistics (DGCI&S), India’s imports of paper and paperboard accelerated by 39% at 409 thousand tonnes in Q1FY24 over 294 thousand tonnes in Q1FY23, The surge in imports comes on the back of 25% increase in paper and paperboard imports in entire FY23 over FY22.

21 Aug 2023 | By Aditya Ghosalkar

In value terms too, the imports accelerated by nearly 28% during the quarter

In value terms too, the imports accelerated by nearly 28% during the quarter to stand at Rs 3,153-crore. In FY23, Rs 12,531-crore worth of paper and paperboard was imported. Imports of all grades of paper have been accelerating with the highest jump of 214% seen in imports of uncoated writing & printing paper, 28% in coated paper and paperboard, 15% in kraft paper and 65% in tissue paper import. In Q1FY24, imports from ASEAN have increased a staggering 198%, and from China by 37% in volume terms.

The top import sources of uncoated writing and printing paper are Indonesia, Singapore and China. The top import sources of coated paper and paperboard are China, Japan and South Korea.

According to Pawan Agarwal, president, Indian Paper Manufacturers Association (IPMA), domestic paper manufacturers have undertaken large investments and there is adequate domestic production capacity in the country for almost all grades of paper. Such large investments in the country should not be allowed to be jeopardised by allowing imports at nil of preferential customs duties. 

He said substantial quantities of paper and paperboard are being imported into the country at significantly lower costs with nil import duty from ASEAN, South Korea and Japan under the respective free trade agreements (FTAs), and preferential import duty from China under the Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA). Taking advantage of the nil/low import duty rates in India, these countries find India as an attractive outlet for diverting their excess inventory while the domestic industry is grappling with the issue of producing paper and paperboard at competitive costs.

“Duty-free imports are making most small and medium paper mills in India commercially unviable, and also hurting the livelihoods of thousands of farmers engaged in agro/farm forestry and supplying wood, the primary raw material, to paper mills. This is against the spirit of Make in India, Aatmanirbhar Bharat and Vocal for Local,” Agarwal said.

IPMA has urged the government to increase the basic customs duty on imports of paper and paperboard to provide a level playing field to domestic paper manufacturers. It has also called for an issue of quality control orders (QCOs) by the government on all grades of paper and making BIS certification mandatory. Issuance of QCOs for different grades of paper will not only assure the supply of quality products to Indian consumers but also check the import of sub-standard products into the country.

Rohit Pandit, secretary general, IPMA, added that suitable safeguard, anti-dumping and countervailing duties on imports of various grades of paper should be expeditiously imposed, especially once recommended by the Directorate General of Trade Remedies (DGTR), in addition to urgently reviewing the FTAs signed earlier, especially with ASEAN, Korea and Japan, which have harmed the domestic industry.

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