Imports of paper and paperboard continue unabated

In the first nine months (April-December) of FY18, imports of paper and paperboard in volume terms have jumped by 40% over the corresponding period of FY17, on top of a year-on-year increase of 28% in imports in FY17 over FY16 according to the latest data released by Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCIS). In the six year period from FY11 to FY17, imports of paper and paperboard have increased at a CAGR of 18%.

14 Mar 2018 | By Rahul Kumar

In April-December FY18, imports of paper and paperboard from ASEAN and South Korea, with whom India has free trade agreements (FTAs) and imports are allowed at zero import duty, have shown a massive increase, growing by 73% and 83% respectively over corresponding period of FY17. Imports from China have grown by 53% over the same period. While, the main imports from ASEAN are of uncoated writing & printing paper, large volume of coated paper is being imported from South Korea and China.

Imports of paper and paperboard reached a peak of 1.47 million tonnes in April-December FY18, as compared to 1.05 million tonnes in the corresponding period of FY17 and even surpassing 1.42 million tonnes imported in the entire FY17.

“The cost of production of paper in India is much higher than that in competing countries due to the high cost of raw material and other inputs, as well as energy cost, in our country. While India is one of the fastest growing markets for paper in the world, the growth is increasingly being taken by imports. Domestic manufacturers are handicapped due to factors beyond their control like inadequate raw material availability and high energy cost. Foreign manufacturers have easy access to captive plantations and cheap energy in their respective countries and face nil import tariffs while exporting to India under the different FTAs,” said Saurabh Bangur, president, Indian Paper Manufacturers Association (IPMA).

The conventional markets for China and Indonesia have been the USA and EU. In both these markets, anti-dumping and/or anti-subsidy tariffs have been imposed on import of paper and/or paperboard to protect their domestic industries. Further, the economic slowdown in developed economies has led to significant excess capacity of paper and paperboard in these countries. Taking advantage of the low import duty rates, these countries find India as an attractive destination for diverting their excess inventory.

Paper industry is a huge value generator for rural population who are engaged in agro-forestry and the domestic growth opportunity cannot be allowed to be squandered. The IPMA has therefore asked the government to undertake trade remedial measures and impose either anti-dumping or safeguard duty on import of paper.

According to Rohit Pandit, secretary general, IPMA, said, “Directorate General of Anti-Dumping & Allied Duties (DGAD) has initiated two investigations – one, on imports of uncoated copier paper from Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore in November 2017, and two, on imports of coated paper from China, European Union and United States of America in January 2018. In both cases, prima facie evidence of dumping was found to initiate the investigation by DGAD. We hope the process is expedited and anti-dumping duties levied on imports of these grades of paper from these countries.”