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13, Apr 2021 -

Rising Paper Packaging Demand to Mitigate Adverse Pandemic Impact on the Global Pulp Market

Rising Paper Packaging Demand to Mitigate Adverse Pandemic Impact on the Global Pulp Market


Because of the pandemic-related shifts in downstream industries, pulp manufacturers are forced to adjust their market strategies towards the rapid increase in packaging paper use. In the medium term, value chain sustainability emerges as the most important factor due to the tightening of environmental regulation.

According to a new report by IndexBox, the global wood pulp market is estimated at $132.7B. Chemical wood pulp (148M tonnes) constituted the product with the highest consumption, accounting for 77% of the total volume. Moreover, chemical wood pulp exceeded the figures recorded for the second-largest type, mechanical wood pulp (24M tonnes), sixfold. Semi-chemical wood pulp (11M tonnes) ranked third, with a 5.9% share.

The COVID crisis became an ordeal for the paper industry. A decline in the demand for printing and writing paper due to the digital transformation has intensified further because exhibitions, conferences, advertising, and education migrated online during the pandemic.

Considering a significant part of the population started to work from home, and cloud technologies became a must-have tool, it leaves no chances for a considerable printing paper market growth even after overcoming the COVID crisis. 

In contrast to the decline in the demand for paper supplies for offices, schools, and restaurants in 2020, the demand for paper for households' needs - toilet paper, napkins - soared in 2020. During the pandemic, the surge in e-commerce has pushed plants producing corrugated boards and paper packaging to operate at full capacity. The lack of supply of cardboard packaging has led to higher prices for cardboard in 2020. Pulp producers are set to adjust their market strategies to the paper and paperboard mill industries' shifts.

While Paper Packaging Segment Drives Market Growth, Supply Chain Sustainability Becomes Vital

The countries with the highest volumes of wood pulp consumption in 2019 were the U.S. (51M tonnes), China (39M tonnes), and Japan (10M tonnes), together accounting for 52% of global consumption. These countries were followed by Canada, Sweden, Russia, Finland, Brazil, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, and France, which accounted for a further 31%.

From 2012 to 2019, the most notable rate of growth in terms of wood pulp demand, amongst the leading consuming countries, was attained by India (with a CAGR of +6.2%), China (+6.1%), and Russia (+4.1%), while wood pulp consumption for the other global leaders experienced more modest or even slightly negative paces of growth.

In the medium term, the demand for paper packaging is expected to grow steadily worldwide, given that paper is an environmentally friendly, biodegradable, and recyclable material. This is facilitated by adopting new legislation in the EU and other countries, the US re-entering the Paris Agreement, and the intensification of international efforts to preserve the climate. 

According to the EU packaging-related regulation, by 2030, at least 85% by weight of all paper and cardboard packaging waste must be recycled. In 2019, in the EU, the share of secondary raw materials in paper production was 49%, while the share of wood pulp was 41%. This makes the paper value chain's sustainability the key factor for the industry in the future, meaning the increased use of recycled raw materials and decreasing energy consumption.

China to Remain the Major Importer of Wood Pulp

Global wood pulp imports stood at 64M tonnes in 2019. In value terms, wood pulp imports reached $45.4B (IndexBox estimates) in 2019. In March 2020, the lockdown led to a sharp drop in global imports of wood pulp by 10% in physical terms compared to April 2020, which was 30% lower than in March 2019. By May 2020, it dropped deeper, amounting to only 60% against May 2019. Afterward, there was a recovery attempt, but during 2020 global pulp imports failed to regain 2019 levels, largely attributed to reduced global printing paper use.

In 2019, China (24M tonnes) represented the major importer of wood pulp, constituting 37% of total imports. From 2012 to 2019, the average annual growth rates concerning wood pulp imports into China stood at +5.9%. At the same time, India (+9.4%), Turkey (+6.5%), Poland (+6.3%), Spain (+3.4%), Indonesia (+1.7%), the Netherlands (+1.6%), the U.S. (+1.5%) and Italy (+1.3%) displayed positive paces of growth. 

India emerged as the fastest-growing importer imported globally, with a CAGR of +9.4% from 2012-2019. Germany, Japan, and South Korea experienced a relatively flat trend pattern. By contrast, France (-2.0%) illustrated a downward trend over the same period. In 2020, China should maintain its leading position in terms of imports because rapid urbanization and income growth promote packaging and household paper use in the country.

In value terms, China ($18.8B) constitutes the largest market for imported wood pulp worldwide, comprising 41% of global imports. The second position in the ranking was occupied by the U.S. ($3.3B), with a 7.2% share of global imports. It was followed by Germany, with a 6.5% share.

Source: IndexBox AI Platform

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