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Following the cyclical reduction in domestic recovered paper collections in December as well as planned and unplanned shutdown measures at the mills, January of this year brought little change. Collection volumes, which are usually significantly higher after the turn of the year owing to seasonal factors, were lower than in comparable periods of previous years. With domestic demand continuing to be scaled down, this eased the stock situation in the recovered paper recycling industry, albeit only minimally. Exports of recovered paper, which had taken on a rescue role in the previous quarter, remained steady.

There were only marginal changes in the recovered paper market in February as consumer behaviour remained subdued amid a lack of economic impetus. Whether from private households or businesses, recovered paper collection volumes remained at a reduced level. The volume of coloured and light-coloured letters increased owing to seasonal factors, which in part led to a significant decrease in paper mills’ remuneration. The price levels of the other grades remained largely stable.

Lower freight rates favoured the immensely important export of recovered paper to the Far East, with these volumes helping to ensure that recyclers’ and paper producers’ warehouse stocks of recovered paper remained manageable. Revenues in the export sector, however, declined marginally given the healthy availability of recovered paper.

Continuing consumer restraint led to a further slight decline in recovered paper collection volumes across all qualities in March. As generally happens, there was a time lag of a few months between the reduced production of goods/commodities and the recovered paper volumes available for collection. The exception was office paper, for which sales fell well short of collected volumes with the result that prices paid by the mills fell by an amount in the low double-digit range. The order situation for graphic paper manufacturers remained very subdued, so these mills continued to buy a reduced volume of graphic paper and office paper files.

On balance, it can be stated that the order situation in the paper industry remains lean. Across all grades, the recovered paper recycling industry is currently marketing at least 20% less volume than in previous years. But thanks to still-healthy exports of lower and medium qualities, recovered paper collection and processing costs can still be covered while also preventing all-important separate collections from coming under pressure. For brown grades, the paper industry in Germany and elsewhere in Europe slightly increased their payments, thereby adjusting intra-European prices to the previously somewhat higher export levels.

During April, there was another fall in the volume of recovered paper available for collection owing to the continuing public reluctance to spend, to the further decline in industrial production and to the school holiday period. At the same time, there was no new economic impetus to help the paper industry. As a result, several paper mills using recovered fibre brought forward their machine maintenance programmes.
Exports of recovered paper, which were somewhat lower in April than in the previous month, again supported the domestic market. As a result, stockpiling in the recovered paper recycling industry decreased marginally, creating a relative balance between supply and demand which led to a small increase in payments made for lower grades.