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The board market saw prices increase in Europe at the beginning of the second half of 2023 before then dropping twice. The export market enabled sales to be spread between Europe and Asia, leading to low stock levels in warehouses. At the time of writing, marine export prices are higher than domestic levels, helped by a significant decrease in ocean freight rates. Collection volumes remain around the average in France, as does demand for the various grades.

Customers at the mills are lacking orders and facing pressure on reel prices which, as a result, is putting pressure on the recycling industry too. Machine stops are happening every month as a response to market conditions. In latest mill developments, VPK has started up its factory at Alizay in France whereas Norske Skog has announced a delay until 2024 for the board machine at its Golbey mill.

The paper market is not performing well, with some grades very difficult to place and prices continuing to fall. Customers are running out of orders and slowing their production.

Stocks are high for grades such as sorted office paper (SOP), shredded books and white wood. In the case of SOP, hygienists are abandoning the recycled grades and turning to pulp, which has seen dramatic falls. The same is true of white paper, some grades of which are very difficult to sell.

In the competition with pure pulp, there is little demand in the market, prices are dropping every month and stocks are gradually rising.

No improvement is anticipated this summer: demand is expected to remain average, with no German market, and inventories are set to rise again in August given the announced plant closures. It is hard to predict what the end of the year will bring, but there is no sign of a recovery at present. What can be said with certainty is that 2023 is nothing like 2022.