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Slow demand still playing out for printing and writing paper in the UK

23 Sep 2020 − 

Demand for publication paper is still much lower than before the pandemic.

The British publication paper market is undergoing a period of radical upheaval. Like the rest of Europe, the UK has faced a sharp drop in demand because of the coronavirus pandemic and will likely not stage a complete recovery. Paper manufacturers have responded to this turn of events by trimming output and closing capacity on a large scale.

The British newsprint market seems to be especially hard hit by recent developments. Many national and regional newspapers encountered a plunge in their circulation, with page numbers also dwindling because of a lack of advertising. In London, for instance, much fewer commuters are still travelling than before the outbreak. Free newspapers are principally affected, with issues cancelled or circulation decreased.

The market has now partially recovered from the lowest levels reached this spring but remains light years’ away from the way things were before Covid-19. Paper manufacturers are reporting that their order intake is currently around 15 to 30 per cent lower than it was at this time last year. Many market players still anticipate that demand for publication paper will subside by around 20 per cent this year compared with 2019. Making forecasts about what next year has in store is proving harder than ever. A few sources think that 2021 will produce little or no growth compared with this year.

UPM, Stora Enso and SCA have responded to developments on the market by announcing plans to eliminate a significant amount of capacity. Along with the 900,000 tpy or so of newsprint capacity that will be shed when Stora Enso Hylte, UPM Kaipola and SCA Ortviken close down, UPM is also planning to divest its Shotton newsprint mill in the UK, which has a capacity of 250,000 tpy. Once sold, the mill is to be converted to make other types of paper, preferably recycled raw material. Consequently, Palm Paper would be the only newsprint manufacturer left in the UK, and the import rate would rise. Recovered paper supply at the Shotton site is deemed to be favourable and will improve with the looming end of recovered paper exports to China.

This article is an excerpt from EUWID's monthly report on the paper markets in the UK.

Find the EUWID Price Watch UK for September 2020 in EUWID Pulp and Paper issue no 39/2020, which will be available to our e-paper and print subscribers as of  23 September 2020.

Want to find out more? Check our subscriptions or test EUWID free of charge.

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