Newsprint prices rising as they were bound to

Newsprint storage of one of the major South Indian daily newspapers

Newsprint prices that were benign in 2017 have been inching up in 2018, although not at the rate claimed by newspaper and magazine owners who seem to think that since they own the media they can say anything even if it is not absolutely correct merely to dramatize the situation and their so-called plight. The indicative prices in November 2017 for 45 gsm newsprint per kilogram as collected by our research associates in Ipp-Star ( were: Khanna Papers Rs. 38; Rama from Rs. 32 to Rs. 34; and Emami Rs. 35 per kilogram. The current indicative prices as collected on 21 May 2018 were: Khanna Papers Rs. 49 (an increase of 28.9%); Rama from Rs. 39 to Rs. 41 (an increase of 21.2%); and Emami from Rs. 44 to 45 (an increase of 28.6%).

The overall increase in the six months from November 2017 of 26.23% is a significant hike for an industry that does not charge a rational cover price for newspapers, although it is not as much as the 40% claimed in Indian media headlines. Publishers are acknowledging that they have only themselves to blame since their daily cover prices varying from Rs. 3 to Rs. 10 are much lower than those in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh, which are around Rs. 15.

As we have written numerous times over the last 40 years, the key problem is the lack of an Indian government forest policy that encourages managed forests and productive harvesting. Based on appropriate tree species for the purpose of creating watersheds and carbon sinks, managed forest could easily be paid for by forest industries such as lumber and paper-making apart from the savings generated by hydroelectric power generation and the production of clean and potable drinking water.

In the meantime, the scarcity of fiber has made it very uneconomical to produce newsprint in India. Increasingly, the newsprint capacity is either idle or being turned into higher prices papers. Newsprint consumption is above 3 million tons a year according to IppStar. Annual newsprint import is in the region of 1.8 million tons.

While various reasons for the rise in the price of newsprint are being given, including Trump’s anti-dumping duty against Canadian mills at the behest of a single US supplier, and that of the Chinese changing their policy of being the largest waste paper processor in the world, the actual fact is the rise of pulp prices and the better value addition
offered by bleached and coated writing papers and boards in comparison to standard newsprint.

Almost a million tons of newsprint capacity closed in 2017. Industry insiders expect more machines to shut down and more than half the profits of integrated forest and paper companies are coming not from paper but from pulp, plywood and bio-diesel. China has also become a net importer of newsprint and Australia, which has become a major supplier of newsprint to India, has seen major producers such as Norske Skog convert a newsprint machine to LWC production as far back as 2014.

In February we warned that paper prices were likely to move up in India with the hardening of pulp and hardwood, prices which had risen US$ 240 a ton in the previous six months. With the import customs duty at nil since May 2012, the industry currently imports about 1.25 million tons of pulp for paper making. Indians and their newspaper and paper industries are suffering from the lack of managed forestry, the low price of printed products of which newspapers are lowest and worst, and finally from the inability to collect and process waste. This is a real shame for a forest fiber-short country that cannot manage to even collect its used paper for recycling.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Indian Printer and Publisher’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

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