Band-aids versus structural reforms and solutions

Anti-dumping duties on import of digital offset plates from China rescinded on 1 June 2018

VIANaresh Khanna
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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the anti-dumping duties on the import of digital offset plates from China, instituted in 2012 for five years, were rescinded.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, editor@ippgroup.in

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