Anti-dumping duties on import of digital offset plates from China rescinded on 1 June 2018

Band-aids versus structural reforms and solutions


On 1 June 2018, the anti-dumping duties on the import of digital offset plates from China, instituted in 2012 for five years, were rescinded. Although these duties were to have expired in 2017, they were extended by one year and a sunset review was initiated. The review cites six reasons for its conclusion that the continuation of anti-dumping duty on the import of offset plates from China is no longer warranted and thus after six years, the anti-dumping duties on plates instituted in 2012 have ceased as of 3 June 2018.

The main, if not the only, manufacturer of offset plates in India is TechNova and over the years it had bought out several competitors in order to accomplish what its owner described as “a perfect monopoly.” Nevertheless, in anticipation of the government’s latest order, in May 2108 CG Ramakrishnan, chief executive officer of TechNova said, “We are extremely surprised by the final findings released by the DGAD regarding our petition for continuation of ADD on imports of digital offset printing plates from China. This is a huge setback to the domestic manufacturers of plates and also to the Make in India initiative of Prime Minister Modi.”

Without going into the merits and arguments of the anti-dumping matter, our view of the matter is that TechNova in spite of its monopolistic practices has a point but this does not warrant a continuance of anti-dumping duties. A growing industry, even if it is as fragmented as the Indian printing industry, requires a choice of suppliers and competitively priced plates with a choice of plates at various quality levels. In fact, printers report that they use Chinese plates of excellent quality, including those sold at prices above comparable TechNova plates.

At the same time, the demand for offset plates has grown sufficiently for several Indian manufacturers to have viably survived in the past fifteen years if they could have withstood the competition from TechNova and Chinese imports. What may be required are structural improvements such as the supply of aluminum offset plate raw materials and the metal itself at competitive rates given that India is an exporter of bauxite, the ore that yields alumina to China. Although the Indian contribution to China’s import of bauxite has declined significantly in the past two years, it still exceeded 2.5 million tons in 2017.

A new manufacturer is coming

In this context the news that Kapoor Imaging is finally planning to set up its offset plate manufacturing plant near Chennai in 2019 is good news and given the historical context must be viewed as courageous. The company, which currently imports quality offset plates from China and sells these under its Topaz brand, is expanding its plate offerings in a prelude to starting up its own manufacturing plant. It is launching a range of high-quality 2-layer non-ablative thermal plates and low-chemistry violet photopolymer medium run plates for the newspaper industry. To be called Topaz BioGreen, these plates do not require any pre-wash and it is claimed that the benign effluent will not require treatment before disposal. Targeting runs of 100,000 to 150,000 impressions, Kapoor Imaging plans to bring them to market by August 2018.

Although long awaited, the execution of the Kapoor Imaging manufacturing project will take time to bear fruit. And it is still unclear if it will be able to withstand the competitive pressures both from TechNova and the expected increase in imports of Chinese offset plates.

Anti-dumping duty on paper contested by AIFMP

In the meantime, the All Indian Federation of Master Printers (AIFMP) has contested the plea by the Indian paper manufacturers for an anti-dumping duty on imports of paper. Here the problems are clearly structural as the government needs to establish clarity on industrial forestry that can engender healthy forests and rivers as well as a rational timber and pulp and paper industry.

ADDs can only act as band-aids and not solutions for a large economy where print plays a vital part. For this to happen, among other things, the industry needs to give better data to the government.

Naresh Khanna,

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels 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. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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