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.
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.
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.