December Delights: Festivities, Challenges, and Paper Adventures
We wish everyone reading our newsletter a joyful month ahead. For the Dutch, December means not just Christmas but also the unique celebration of Sinterklaas, making it an extra (expensive) special time.
Looking back on the past month, we travelled to Barcelona for the PPRC, an annual event in Europe. Despite our respect for the organizers, we found the meeting didn’t add much value to our business at all. The quality didn’t match the costs, and it seemed many attendees preferred spending money at the bar rather than on registration.
This seems like a cycle: fewer registrations lead to lower quality, and then even fewer people attend. Let’s break this cycle. Organizers, improve your programs; participants, commit to paying registration fees. Together, let’s create events that are truly valuable and inspiring, attracting and keeping holding on to participants. It’s time for a new chapter in our meetings and collaborations.
Bulkgrades: A Snapshot of Challenges and Changes in the European Paper Industry
At the beginning of November, German factories were concerned that high export prices would result in lower available volumes. However, due to decreasing export demand, the contracts were ultimately fulfilled relatively smoothly. Cardboard prices in Germany ranged between 115 and 125 EUR per ton, delivered to the factory. It is expected that prices will decrease by 10-15 EUR to a level of 105-115 EUR per ton, depending on the return of export demand. At the same time, it is predicted that index prices (Euwid) in Germany for cardboard will increase by 5 to 10 euros per ton. Contract prices based on Euwid will range from 120-130 EUR per ton in December, creating a relatively high delta between “free” market prices and “Euwid” prices.
To cut costs, European factories are trying to lower market prices. A notable example is Saica, which announced a reduction of 30 euros per ton for cardboard prices by the end of this month, although the available collected volumes are 5-15% lower than a year ago. This suggests that supply and demand are reasonably balanced, and there is no immediate reason for structural price reductions.
Overall, at this moment the paper industry is facing some great challenges. Packaging paper producers still have reasonable order positions, but this may change quickly as December passes. Other paper producers are truly affected by the unstable economy that is not getting better anytime soon. Solid and graphic board, graphic paper, and technical paper types are considerably less in demand. It is also expected that some producers have no choice but to halt part of their production, resulting in regional excessive volumes of recovered paper thus putting pressure on prices in certain regions.
Deinking grades are difficult to move in some regions. The number of buyers is declining, and a new balance is sought after. “Normal” Deinking (news and pams from sorting) was traded at 125-140 EUR per ton delivered to the paper mill, whereas higher deinkable grades like pre-consumer deinking and magazines changed hands at 160-170 EUR per ton. Stable prices are forecasted for December.
Additionally, Norske Skog announced that the startup of the rebuilt PM 1 at its Golbey mill in France would be delayed, moving from Q2 2024 to the second half of the next year due to delivery delays. Smurfit Kappa is also planning to close its containerboard mill in Le Pontet, southern France, as part of the restructuring plan of Smurfit Kappa Recyclé France (SKPRF), potentially causing shifts in market dynamics. (Source: Euwid, 2023)
Last but not least, Austrian paper, board, and packaging company Mayr-Melnhof has changed its spending plans for the Polish Kwidzyn mill. The company decided not to invest in converting one of the woodfree paper machines at the site to produce kraft paper. Additionally, there are no intentions to start kraft paper production at any other Mayr-Melnhof site. (Source: EUWID, 2023)
Higher Grades: Dynamics and Challenges in the Multidruck and Paper Market
In our last message, we said that Multidruck (3.10.00 EN643) was popular in early November, and we predicted the price might improve. But now, we must change that prediction. Lacking export appetite leads to higher available Multidruck-volumes, mostly from the UK and Netherlands in the form of good “Multigrade”. The price for this commonly traded recovered paper quality will probably slide down slightly in December. We think it will drop by around 10-20 EUR per ton, resulting in a price between 200-240 euros per ton delivered to the factory. Even Big buyers like Papier- & Kartonfabrik Varel and Hamburger Containerboard Spremberg have already revealed lower demand due to weak interest in white top testliner.
Office paper qualities seemed a bit easier to sell in November. European tissue products producers and buyers from Turkey and Asia were willing to pay a few extra euros for raw materials. We are looking forward to the new month in which historically collected volumes are relativey low. (happy new year).
White coated and uncoated paper remain difficult to sell. Prices are expected to keep on dwindling. There are no other options for these qualities except for use in the cardboard industry, which makes the price very reliant on current demand for white coated containerboard. As an example, white uncoated paper (3.18.00) was traded between 660-720 EUR per ton delivered to the factory in the middle of last year, but now it has dropped to 480-530 EUR per ton.
Other higher European grades, like scanboard (3.11/3.12), white ledger (3.05) and woodfree cuttings (3.04) traded at fairly stable prices in November but are now under pressure from price adjustments in Multidruck, printers waste and the high white grades.
Additionally, UPM business units UPM Pulp, UPM Timber, UPM Communication Papers, and UPM Biofuels announced that they will talk about possible temporary layoffs. These layoffs might happen from January 1 to June 30, 2024, in UPM Pulp, UPM Timber, and UPM Biofuels, and from March 1 to August 31, 2024, in UPM Communication Papers (Source: EUWID).
ASIA: Global Trade Watch: Surfing the wild seas of Export Markets and Economic Challenges
After a brief improvement at the end of October and the first week of November, the export markets seem to be pulling back again. In the past months, a significant amount, mainly cardboard 95/5, was sold from Europe to Asia. Currently, the demand is moderate, partly due to a slowing Chinese economy.
China is still grappling with a crisis in the real estate sector. Following issues with some real estate developers, the snowball has now moved on to the financing sector. This can have significant effects on the overall economic stability. How this will unfold remains uncertain.
In India, prices were at 150-155 USD CNF for 95/5 in mid-October, then dropped to 135-140 USD per ton. At this price level, the supply was almost zero, leading to a slight price increase of 95/5 to USD 140-145 per ton by the end of November. Marginally rising freight rates and a weaker dollar result in prices is still not being attractive for European parties. A potential drop in local prices in the coming weeks, though, could make India an interesting alternative again.
Kraftliner grades to India and Vietnam remain in demand. KCB/Colakraft traded around USD 200-205 CNF, while Steel Mill Kraft ranged between 420-460 USD. The market dynamics continue to unfold, with the expectation that shifts in local prices and external factors will shape the course of these trade stories in the coming period.
The European Parliament has recognised that the established system of recycling paper, cardboard and cartonboard must be regarded as equivalent to reusable packaging. According to the two associations, it is now important that the European Council of Ministers takes this result into account when making its decision. The EU Commission’s initial proposal had envisaged prioritising reusable packaging by introducing rigid quota regulations. The EU Parliament has now taken a different path and spoken out in favour of protecting existing and well-functioning recycling systems, according to “Die Papierindustrie”. (Source: EUWID)
Looking ahead to some upcoming events:
- On December 6th, there’s a meeting for members of FNOI. Peter Paul and Joost will be taking part.
- From December 6th to 9th, “thé” indian paper event of the year “Paperex” will take place in Greater Noida in India. Bjørn and Daan will be representing Imtrade.