Paper import under compulsory registration from 1 October 2022

Paper imports move from ‘free’ to 'free subject to registry’

The Finnish paper mill workers and other supporting unions strike at UPM is extended to 30 April 2022 Photo
The Finnish paper mill workers and other supporting unions strike at UPM. Photo

Soon after the Paperex exhibition held in mid-May in Greater Noida, the Central government’s ministry of commerce and industry decided on 26 May 2022 to monitor almost all paper imports and to move these from the ‘free’ category to ‘free subject to compulsory registration under Paper Import Monitoring System,’ according to an official statement. From 1 October 2022, all paper imports arriving in the country will be governed by the Paper Import Monitoring policy with a view to putting an end to the dumping of paper products and the avoidance or reduction of duties by re-routing imports from third countries in lieu of trade agreements with the country of origin.

The order is applicable to newsprint, handmade, wallpaper base and wallpaper, duplicating, coated and uncoated, litho and offset paper, tissue and toilet paper, and finished paper products such as envelopes, cartons, labels, and bobbins. Papers excluded from the monitoring system include currency, bank bond, cheque, and security printing papers.

The Indian paper industry has raised the issues of both dumping paper products and under-invoicing by misdeclaration and the re-routing of imports through third countries in lieu of trade agreements with the country of origin. “A large proportion of paper products are imported under the “others” category tariff lines. The move will also go a long way in promoting Make in India and Atmanirbhar in this category,” according to the ministry.

Online registration for Rs 500 from 15 July 2022

The online facility for registration will be available from 15 July 2022 through the Paper Import Monitoring System. “Any importer will be able to obtain an automatic registration number online by paying a registration fee of Rupees 500. The importer can apply for registration not earlier than the 75th day and not later than the 5th day before the expected date of arrival of the import consignment. The automatic registration number thus granted shall remain valid for a period of 75 days. Multiple bills of entries shall be allowed in the same registration number within the validity period of registration for the permitted quantity,” according to the ministry’s statement.

Our view

There is no denying that ‘free’ paper imports while helping book printing exports and newspaper publishers are also partly misused. The accounting of paper imports is a good thing since the data can be improved to reflect the real and growing demand for a range of paper grades that are needed and for which the right measures need to be taken to improve Indian manufacturing. The Indian paper industry is capable of making almost all paper grades with the requisite quality and efficiency for both domestic demand and exports. 

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However, the access and sourcing of raw materials including the collection and sorting of waste paper need improvement. The forest, agriculture and environment ministries need to work together to align both access to fiber and water and best practices, which the organized part of the industry is eager to embrace. The Indian paper mills are doing well but mainly by producing lower value liner for corrugated which requires recycled paper comprehensively, and by producing very high-value packaging boards. 

The publication papers (writing and printing) are also producing good paper but these need help perhaps in the form of incentives to upgrade their mills, especially for newsprint grades that require quality improvement and better realizations. Many of the better paper makers in the country are investing in technology upgrades for specialized grades of paper but to improve the availability for all publishing and printing, there is a need for concerted thinking and policy. This becomes especially important given the decline and realignment of publication paper production from the European and Western Hemisphere mills, which are beset with high energy costs; and of course the disruption of global supply chains and the steep rise in the cost of logistics.

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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