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Production by the Italian paper and board industry totalled 8.232 million tonnes in the first 11 months of 2022 - a decline of 6.7% when compared to the same period in the previous year. Viewing last November in isolation, production was 22.7% lower than in the corresponding month of 2021 at 639,030 tonnes..

Compared to January-November 2021, printing & writing and packaging recorded year-on-year production declines of, respectively, 9.7% and 13.7% in the first 11 months of last year whereas the totals for November 2022 alone were, in turn, 36.6% and 22.2% lower than for the same month in 2021.

Toilet tissue was the only segment to see production increases, rising 1% across the first 11 months of 2022 and an even more pronounced 3% when comparing November with the same month in the previous year. For the “other” grades, production was down 11.4% across last year’s January-November period and 24.7% when comparing November 2022 with the penultimate month of 2021.

Italy’s recovered paper consumption fell 8.7% in January-November 2022 to 5.084 million tonnes, with the November total of 396,820 tonnes representing a year-on-year decline of 25.5%.

Cellulose prices remained reasonably stable in 2022 whereas recovered paper experienced strong fluctuations in availability and pricing. For those mills that paid high prices for recovered paper last summer before cutting production in August, they opted to reduce purchases in order to digest their stocks. They had difficulties in increasing their sales prices amid constant problems with energy costs. One of the results of all these factors and of shipping costs returning more or less to normal was an increase in paper and board imports, mostly from fellow EU producers but also from China whose product was appreciated for its quality.

The greater normalization of shipping costs enabled the resumption of healthier recovered paper exports to, notably, Indonesia, India and China, with the quality of Italy’s material being well accepted everywhere.

The return to more normal bulk grade prices impacted on the December auctions where attempts were made to stabilize the market through negotiations for material deliveries in the first quarter of 2023, introducing a definitive base price and a monthly quota as a function of market fluctuations.

The approaching Chinese New Year holidays, energy issues and developments surrounding COVID will have effects that are difficult to foresee, as will the Ukraine conflict and the associated disruption to exchanges and the global economy.

The strong media attention attracted by recycling and the Circular Economy should surely be welcomed by our profession, even if an enthusiastic public often misunderstands some of the issues at stake. Impacted by all of the above, Italy is also undergoing a change in the direction of its internal and foreign policies with hopefully positive effects, although this will require time and solid effort.