Indian Paper Mills Association calls for 25% import duties

Indian paper imports grow at 13% CAGR over nine years

Paper, Origami. Photo Jonas Tebbe via Unsplash
Paper, Origami. Photo Jonas Tebbe via Unsplash

The Indian Paper Mills Association has written to the central government, suggesting that import duties should be raised to stop the surge in paper imports. “The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in paper import to India in the last nine years (between FY11 to FY20) is over 13%. This is one of the highest amongst all the sectors affected by the surge in imports,” said AS Mehta, president, IPMA.

According to IPMA, imports of paper from the ASEAN countries and South Korea under the India-ASEAN free trade agreement (FTA) and India-Korea CEPA, respectively, at nil import duty, went up by 18% and 9% respectively during the 2019-20 financial year ending 31 March 2020. India’s import of paper from China has surged by 14% to 2,89,000 metric tons in FY 2019-20, according to the latest data released by DGCIS. Total paper imports by India went up by 11% to 1.6 million metric tons. Chinese imports to India enjoy a margin of preference of 30% on most paper grades under the Asia Pacific Trade Agreement.

Indian paper mills are reeling under immense economic pressure created by the Covid-19 pandemic and economic slowdown. In categories such as newsprint, consumption this year is likely to decline from 30 to 40% in the current year.

IPMA has urged the government to hike basic customs duties on paper to 25% and place it in the negative list for all existing and future free trade agreements. India’s paper import policy should be tweaked from ‘free’ to ‘restricted’ to halt indiscriminate imports, the paper mills have written to the Centre.

“Paper manufacturers in China and ASEAN countries enjoy access to cheap inputs and raw material and get incentives and subsidies in their countries. Allowing imports from these countries, at either nil or preferential import duties, into India does not provide a level-playing field to Indian manufacturers in the domestic market,” says the Indian Paper Manufacturers Association (IPMA) in a letter to the Union ministry of commerce and industry. Imports should be allowed only based on actual user licenses, the association said.

IPMA has also sought that imports should be allowed only through one designated port in the country so that there is proper monitoring of imports in terms of valuation, quality, and classification.

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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