Newsprint prices in downward cycle

Global and Indian newsprint demand remains flat

Newsprint prices

Newsprint prices have come under pressure from the September 2018 peak prices of US$ 780 to US$ 550 a metric ton. Although there was talk of prices going up to US$ 800 and even higher, we believe that in July and August 2018, the Indian newspaper buyers had sufficient stocks in their warehouses for the winter holiday season as well as pipelined contracts stretching well into 2019.

While newsprint producers and distributors implied that prices would not come down to earlier levels, other industry experts were confident that the industry’s cyclical nature would again bring prices back to earth. Indian publishers were confident of the prices coming down and although this has happened, the unfavorable dollar-Rupee exchange rate remains an impediment even at the current price of US$ 550.

The average price of newsprint in Asia came down by US$ 15 a metric ton in October 2018. Some of the global markets were flat while European producers were at that time contemplating price hikes for 2019. Newsprint demand in India was constrained by poor growth in the normally robust holiday season from September to December with global demand down by 9% in September and down by more than 5% in November 2018. Global newsprint prices were extremely region specific and erratic in the period.

Newsprint prices eroded from US$ 780 to US$ 680 to US$ 600 to US$ 580 to the currently prevailing US$ 550. Even now many of the Indian buyers are holding back because of the unfavorable Rupee-dollar exchange rate, which is at Rs. 71.50 to the US$ down from a peak of Rs. 75 per dolar in the middle of the year but nowhere near the Rs. 65 per dollar of a year ago. Thus, newsprint at US$ 550 still feels like a price of US$ 600 with Russian supplies dominating the Indian market.

Large Indian newsprint buyers are looking forward to a rate of US$ 500 or even US$ 475 per metric ton of newsprint in perhaps six months from now – and they are hopeful that the US dollar will also continue to moderate against the Indian Rupee. Their typical stock is for two to three months with an additional two-and-a-half month supply pipelined with contracts at current rates.

Local newsprint prices have also come down under the pressure of global declines. Indian newsprint producers such as Khanna, Emami and Rama have reduced their prices by 10 to 15%, so that they are now in the Rs. 34,000 to Rs. 42,000 (US$ 500 to 600) range per metric ton.


There is always some hope that elections will bring extra revenue, which is apparent since mid-February 2019 in the bump in political ads and increased pagination. However, this bounty of extra ad pages from central and state governments and public sector agencies, companies and institutions is likely to dry up as soon as elections are announced with a six-week run up to the election in May or early June. As soon as the election dates are announced, the Election Commssion’s Code of Conduct, which bans the use of public funds for electioneering and sops, comes into immediate force.

Public sector newsprint mills in bad shape

The Indian government’s Department of Investment and Public Asset Management has already approved the sale of state-owned Hindustan Newsprint. Although private local newsprint manufacturers’ interest should be high, it cannot be at the same level as it was in July and August of last year since they have had to drop their prices in alignment with global rates. The trend is clearly to use recycled fiber for better yielding printing and writing papers as at Tamil Nadu Papers Limited, which is further distancing itself from its newsprint origins and now starting up a new paperboard machine.

In the meantime, a fire broke out in early February 2019 at the Nepa newsprint mill in Burhanpur, Madhya Pradesh. No injuries were reported in the fire as the mill has been closed for a long time undergoing a renovation and refurbishing project. A mill official says it will likely resume newsprint production by the end of the 2019 calendar year.

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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