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France

2021 was a truly historic year. Amid strong demand, recovered paper and board prices were sustained at the elevated levels that also applied to other materials produced by recyclers. A slight decline was noted in the third quarter of last year, but within a market that was settled at very high levels.

The new year has begun with good sales prices. Collections have been more flat in January, while demand is good both domestically and also for overseas trading. Overall, the market in Europe for the lower grades has renewed its momentum. While papermakers’ stocks are high, inventories are very low among recyclers who have been experiencing a slow start to the year. Order books for reels remain strong as a result of, among other factors, the growth of e-commerce and the observable transition from plastics packaging to paper.

Demand in Asia has been good at satisfactory price levels in January but the question continues to be whether the logistics will be there to ship the material. The situation remains equally complicated for the availability of vessels and containers.

There has been no change with regard to India: owing to an administrative error which is being corrected, it is still impossible to export there at present. It has been announced that India will return to the market between mid-February and early March. As of this month, Malaysia is setting strict controls prior to loading, as China and Indonesia have done previously.

The medium-grade market stabilized at the beginning of the year after having dropped at the end of 2021. Customers have good orders for newsprint at price levels that made a recovery in the second half of last year.

Demand for recovered paper and board remains close to normal even though conditions have become slightly tougher in the south of France. The other grades are at high levels, with supply barely meeting demand.

The higher grades market has begun 2022 on the increase amid scarce availability, good demand and the relatively elevated price of pulp.

Undoubtedly, the market is performing well. In theory, there is no reason for it to change this year although, as with any market, it can sometimes be difficult to anticipate. This was clear to see at the end of 2021.

Looking ahead, 2022 is likely to be an interesting year. The start-up of two new machines in France with an annual output of more than 1 million tonnes will create a practically balanced market here. At the same time, the regulatory backdrop changes regularly and is becoming ever more restrictive; the industry must adapt to this and benefits will come to those that can. It cannot be stressed often enough: we must produce good-quality materials that meet the needs of our customers in all of our markets.

To conclude on a positive note: the End of Waste decree was signed in France at the end of last year.