India’s imports of paper and paperboard accelerated by 39 per cent at 409 thousand tonnes in Q1FY24 over 294 thousand tonnes in Q1FY23, according to the latest data issued by the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence & Statistics (DGCI&S). The surge in imports comes on the back of a 25 per cent increase in paper and paperboard imports in entire FY23 over FY22.

In value terms too, the imports accelerated by nearly 28 per cent during the quarter to stand at ₹3,153 crore. In FY23, ₹12,531 crore worth of paper and paperboard was imported.

In Q1FY24, imports from ASEAN have increased a staggering 198 per cent, and from China by 37 per cent% in volume terms.

Imports of all grades of paper have been accelerating in Q1FY24 with the highest jump of 214 per cent seen in imports of uncoated writing and printing paper, 28 per cent in coated paper and paperboard, 15 per cent in kraft paper and 65 per cent in tissue paper imports.

The top import sources of uncoated writing and printing paper are Indonesia, Singapore, and China. The top import sources of coated paper and paperboard are China, Japan and South Korea.

Pawan Agarwal, President, Indian Paper Manufacturers Association (IPMA), said that domestic paper manufacturers have undertaken large investments and there is adequate domestic production capacity in the country for almost all grades of paper. Such large investments should not be allowed to be jeopardised by allowing imports at nil or preferential customs duties. Substantial quantities of paper and paperboard are being imported into the country at significantly lower costs with nil import duty from ASEAN, South Korea, and Japan under the respective free trade agreements (FTAs), and preferential import duty from China under the Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA). Taking advantage of the nil/low import duty rates in India, these countries find India as an attractive outlet for diverting their excess inventory while the domestic industry is grappling with the issue of producing paper and paperboard at competitive costs.

IPMA has urged the government to increase the basic customs duty on imports of paper and paperboard to provide a level playing field to the domestic paper manufacturers. It has also called for the issue of quality control orders (QCOs) by the Government on all grades of paper and making BIS certification mandatory. Issuance of QCOs for different grades of paper will not only assure the supply of quality products to the Indian consumers but also check the import of sub-standard products into the country.

Rohit Pandit, Secretary General, IPMA, added that suitable safeguard, anti-dumping and countervailing duties on imports of various grades of paper should be expeditiously imposed, especially once recommended by the Directorate General of Trade Remedies (DGTR), in addition, to urgently reviewing the FTAs signed earlier, especially with ASEAN, Korea and Japan, which have harmed the domestic industry.