EU27's recovered paper exports exceed 2019 levels after strong second half


More volumes were diverted from China and towards countries in Southeast Asia and Turkey.

The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in spring 2020 had severely restricted EU trade activities in recovered paper. In April and May, the quantities of recovered paper exported to countries outside the European Union (third countries) were 27 and 38 per cent below the previous year's level, respectively. In total, extra-EU exports of the 27 EU member states were 10 per cent lower in the first half of the year than in the first half of 2019. It is therefore all the more remarkable that export volumes increased in 2020 as a whole. In its external trade figures published in March, the EU statistics office Eurostat recorded a 4.5 per cent increase in recovered paper exports from the EU to 6.1 million t.

According to the Eurostat data, the decline in the first six months of 2020 was more than offset by very strong exports in the second half of the year. On average, the 27 EU states remaining after Brexit exported 20 per cent more recovered paper to third countries between July and December than in the same period the year before.

In addition, prices for exports of recovered paper rebounded quickly after dropping sharply at the beginning of the year. While the price (per tonne) of exported recovered paper was only €66-67 in January and February, it stood at €128 in May to €106 on average in the second half of the year. Looking at the year as a whole, however, the total value of exported recovered paper fell from €600m to €581m.

Shifts in the pattern of export flows observed in recent years continued, as still more volumes were diverted from China and towards countries in Southeast Asia and Turkey. Shipments to China have been declining sharply for the past years due to the country's import restrictions. According to Eurostat, the EU27's exports to the People's Republic stood at 5.1 million t in 2016, but were only 294,000 t in 2020.

India, Indonesia and Turkey emerged as alternative sales markets for EU exporters, and the recovered paper tonnages shipped to these destination countries are multiplying in just a short time. Exports from the EU to Vietnam and Thailand also increased significantly for a time. In 2020, however, there was strong contraction in demand from these two countries.

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