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Paper Industry concerned as imports go up 34% in FY24; Imports from ASEAN up 92%

Indian Paper Manufacturers Association has expressed concern at consistently high levels of imports of paper and paperboard in the country hurting the interests of domestic industry.

As per the data released by DGCI&S recently, paper imports in the country reached 19.3 lakh tonnes in FY24, a rise of 34% over 14.3 lakh tonnes imported in the previous year. The surge of 34% comes on top of a 25% jump in paper imports in the previous year FY23.

ASEAN has come to account for the largest chunk in the paper import pie in the country accounting for 27% share. Paper imports from ASEAN, which enter the country at zero import duty under the ASEAN-India free trade agreement, doubled to 5.1 lakh tonnes during the year from 2.7 lakh tonnes in FY23.

In value terms too, paper imports have doubled in the last three years. From INR 6,140 crore in FY21, paper imports reached INR 13,248 crore in FY24, the highest ever level, with a 3-year CAGR of 29%.

The unprecedented imports of paper and paperboard, valued at INR 13,248 crore in FY24, poses a significant threat to India’s Make-in-India initiative and Aatmanirbhar Bharat.

Despite India’s sufficient domestic capacity to produce nearly all grades of paper, the influx of indiscriminate imports is undermining the commercial viability of many paper mills across the country. Government data reveals that out of over 900 paper mills in India, only 553 are currently operational, a clear indication of the adverse impact of these imports, said Pawan Agarwal, President, IPMA.

Imports of major paper grades, including uncoated writing & printing paper, coated paper, and paperboard, are rising at an alarming rate. This surge comes despite substantial investments by the domestic industry in recent years to upgrade technology, improve product quality, and enhance agro / farm forestry practices. These investments are now at risk due to the influx of duty-free imports.

India’s past trade agreements, such as the ASEAN and Korean FTAs, along with the Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA) with China and other countries, have significantly reduced import duties on paper. Under APTA, the basic customs duty has been slashed from 10% to 7% on most paper grades, offering a 30% margin of preference. This has made India an attractive destination for excess paper inventories from countries benefiting from substantial subsidies and incentives.

IPMA has urged the government to increase the basic customs duty (BCD) on import of paper and paperboard from 10% to 25% (WTO bound rate for India is 40%).

Since an increase in basic customs duty will not impact duty-free imports under FTAs, paper and paperboard should be placed in the Negative / Exclusion List ensuring no preferential treatment in terms of import tariffs. IPMA has also called for an urgent review of existing FTAs (ASEAN, South Korea, and Japan) and a careful approach to formulating new FTAs.

Rohit Pandit, IPMA Secretary General, emphasised the need for issuing Quality Control Orders (QCOs) for various paper grades to guarantee the supply of high-quality products to Indian consumers and to prevent the import of sub-standard paper. Additionally, he stressed the importance of imposing suitable safeguard, anti-dumping, and countervailing duties on imported paper grades, following the recommendations of the Directorate General of Trade Remedies (DGTR).

India’s Imports of Paper & Paperboard (DGCI&S)
Year Thousand Tonnes INR Crores
Total China ASEAN South Korea Total China ASEAN South Korea
2020-21 1,084.7 145.9 145.2 63.8 6,140 1,136 835 373
2021-22 1,145.8 145.8 148.3 64.7 7,839 1,497 1,028 465
2022-23 1,436.5 341.0 266.5 81.7 12,531 3,430 2,267 779
2023-24 1,929.1 411.4 514.1 103.4 13,248 3,455 3,122 811
Y-o-Y Growth (%) 34.29 20.65 92.91 26.56 5.72 0.73 37.72 4.11
3 Year CAGR (%) 21.16 41.28 52.41 17.46 29.22 44.88 55.21 29.55

Note: Data includes HS Codes 4802, 4803, 4804, 4805, 4808 & 4810

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