Healthy demand tempered by transportation and energy concerns
Demand for recovered paper has been really good in Europe during recent months owing to healthy order books at the paper mills, with the majority of them working at 100% capacity most of the time. Therefore, prices have been mostly increasing each month, by approximately Euro 25-35 per tonne, over the course of the year to date. OCC remained largely stable in March whereas deinking and pulp substitutes have seen their prices increase every month. Stock levels are low in general, although logistics problems have brought some exceptions and temporarily increasing stocks.
In Asia, the early months of 2022 were quite good too, but demand is currently deteriorating and buyers are reducing prices despite the reluctance of sellers. The lower demand in South East Asia and India is mainly the result of COVID lockdowns in China following a surge of cases which is reducing industrial activity very significantly and therefore its demand for finished products from elsewhere in Asia. This is the reason for the decline in recovered paper demand from Asia, with prices having dropped by up to US$ 20-30 per tonne in April.
Another problem to have afflicted Europe and India resulted from the Indian government mistakenly informing the European Commission in October last year that it would no longer accept recovered paper imports, leading to an involuntary ban. Despite this ban, some countries - including the Netherlands, Italy and Spain - continued with these exports for several weeks. Fortunately, the problem has now been resolved and exports resumed last month.
There is still a major lack of maritime logistics availability. Fewer vessels, containers and routes have resulted in sharp price increases, making international commerce much more difficult. The above-mentioned surge in China’s COVID cases and the reduction in industrial activity have produced huge congestion in Shanghai, with more than 500 vessels that cannot be unloaded around China’s most important port. This issue has worsened an already difficult logistics situation.
The Ukraine conflict and Europe’s large dependency on Russian gas have hiked prices substantially, making it very difficult for some mills to run their machines. It is perhaps a little easier to pass on higher costs in final product prices for packaging and newsprint, but tissue mills’ clients are proving more reluctant and so margins are becoming narrower.