“There is hardly any investment at this moment, and the market is full of uncertainties. So we do not intend to make any new investment right away. Although we have investment plans, we are not committed to it right now. Whatever investment we make will be towards strengthening our core business, which is book printing,” says Vasant Goel of Gopsons Papers.
According to Goel, the book printing market is braving rough waters for the last two years; adding to that is the shutting down of Ballarpur Paper Mill following difficulty in procuring raw material, that is, bamboo. The effect of the shut down has seen rise in paper prices up to 20%. Also, recently, Tamil Nadu Newsprint & Papers Limited and Seshasayee Paper and Boards Limited curtailed productions due to water scarcity. There is news of some government paper mills shutting down as well due to unavailability of raw materials. The capacity utilization at Gopsons has come down by 60% post the shut-down of Ballarpur Paper Mill. “We have been able to pass on the increased paper price to some of our customers, but this is a mixed bag. There is much indecision in the market,” Goel shares.
According to Bhuvnesh Seth of Replica Press, paper mills are taking advantage of the Ballarpur situation. Ignoring the standard rise in paper prices globally, Indian paper mills have extravagantly increased their prices by up 20%. Every month, paper mills are increasing their rates. Printers, therefore, are not able to quote paper rates to their clients upfront as the prices fluctuate and one can quote a definite price only at the time of the delivery. “How can a printer quote the price to a publisher,” reasons Seth. “Printers are already suffering massive losses.”
“I don’t know why print communities, publishers’ associations and AIFMP are silent about the crisis. They should raise their voice to the highest level,” says Seth. “I agree there is scarcity of pulps and the pulp price has gone up from US$ 460 to US$ 700 – which is, however, not so bad. It’s just that paper mills are exploiting the situation of demand-supply gap. They have multiplied their money in just six months by earning what they have not ever earned in a decade. To help come out of this situation, adequate funds must be pumped in for Ballarpur to stabilize its production as well as the high custom duty that we pay should be decreased.”
Nevertheless, Goel is optimistic about the future as he says, “I don’t know when the situation is going to improve, but I am quite optimistic about things settling down soon. I would say that the worse is over and things are going to move on for the better very soon. We are also looking forward to the implementation of GST in the country. This will help the printing fraternity to some extent.”