Imports from ASEAN countries shot up from 81,000 tonnes in the first half of FY23 to 288,000 tonnes in the first half of FY24. Imports from China were almost flat at 186,400 tonnes in the period under review.
In value terms, total paper imports rose to Rs 6,481 crore in April-September 2023-24 from Rs 5,897 crore in the year-ago period.
Imports from ASEAN countries more than doubled to Rs 1,509 crore in the first half of FY24 from Rs 715 crore in the year ago period. Paper imports from China were worth Rs 1,629 crore in the first half of this fiscal against Rs 1,919 crore in a year ago.
Imports from South Korea were higher at Rs 382 crore against Rs 358 crore in the year-ago period.
Even as the industry is grappling with the issue of producing paper and paperboard at competitive costs in view of significant increase in raw material and input costs, the industry is hamstrung by the preferential tariff treatment to paper and paperboard imports under various free trade agreements (FTAs) signed in the past, said Indian Paper Manufacturers Association (IPMA) President Pawan Agarwal said. Besides zero import duty on paper under the ASEAN and Korean FTAs, India has also extended import tariff concessions other countries under the Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA) offering 30 per cent margin of preference, thereby reducing the basic customs duty from 10 per cent to 7 per cent on most grades of paper, IPMA said.
Going forward, imports into India are expected to accelerate in view of the economic slowdown in China, trade restrictions and import duties imposed by the US and European Union to protect their own domestic markets, and large new paperboard capacities coming up in Indonesia and China, the association said.