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China slashes its recovered fibre imports in early 2018

OCC pricing has dropped sharply from the high levels scaled in 2017 ‘owing to the failure to find new markets to replace the reduction in Chinese imports’, it is stated in the BIR’s latest Recovered Paper Mirror. However, fibre exports increased significantly during the opening quarter of 2018 to India, Indonesia and Vietnam. ‘To India,’ it notes by way of example, ‘exports nearly doubled. 

China imported around 21 million tons of fibre last year, of which the EU supplied around 7 million tons, the USA 11.5 million tons and Japan 2.3 million tons. In January/February 2018, China imported only 2.5 million tons, with the USA supplying some 45% and the EU around 30%. OCC made up nearly 75% of the total.

The Mirror poses the question as to how China is going to produce the containerboard it needs given that the tonnages of fibre imported into China are on course to drop by a third this year according to quotas allowed by the authorities.

Meanwhile, the European market reached a low point in March as prices were heavily impacted by China’s ‘almost complete absence’ from the market. The Mirror reports increased flows into Germany from France and the UK as a result of the decline in exports to China, with the side note that more than 17 million tonnes of paper for recycling was used in German mills’ production in 2017 for an input rate of 74%.

In Italy last year, recovered paper imports climbed 0.5% to 354 590 tons whereas exports fell 3.4% to 1.867 million tons. Given the new policy in China, exports have been flowing to the Middle East ‘as well as to established destinations in Taiwan, South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam’, with quality said to be ‘an important factor’ for buyers.

Indeed, Turkish imports of recovered paper climbed to between 250 000 and 300 000 tonnes in this year’s first quarter, originating mainly from EU countries.

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