December 2005

China’s paper production increased by 15.1% from 2003 to 2004

Dublin, Ireland— In 2004, the Chinese government implemented broad macroeconomic regulations to curb its overheated industries and slow down fixed asset investment growth. However, China’s GDP reached 9.5% in 2004, much higher than the targeted 7% by the Chinese government.

As a result of the overall economic growth, China’s papermaking industry saw positive developments in 2004. Total paper and paperboard production reached 49.5 million tons, 6.5 million tons or 15.1% more than in 2003. Total paper and paperboard consumption reached 54.4 million tons, 6.3 million tons or 13.2% more than in 2003. Production and consumption growth rates in 2004 were even faster than those in 2003; 13.8% and 10.9% respectively.

In 2004, the overall profitability of China papermaking industry improved substantially. Paper mills in China earned sales revenue of RMB 200.9 billion (US$24.3 billion) combined, 21% more than in the previous year. Before-tax profit amounted to RMB 18.5 billion (US$2.2 billion), 15% over the previous year. The net profit reached RMB 10 billion (US$1.2 billion), 17% over the previous year. Foreign invested companies and private companies have been playing an increasingly important role in the paper industry. In 2004, foreign invested companies contributed 28.6% to industry sales revenue and account for 40% of industry net profit while collective and private companies accounted for 46.6% of sales revenue and 35.8% of net revenue.

China’s newsprint manufacturers could relax as newsprint prices rebounded twice totaling RMB 500-600/mt in 2004. Since 2001, the prices saw steady declines for three years. In 2004, art paper consumption soared to 2.74 million tons, 20.7% over 2003. Rapid consumption growth moderated the pressures from capacity build-up in 2005 effectively. Offset book paper consumption and production growth remained stable, with its consumption and production reaching 5.75 million tons and 5.5 million tons respectively in 2004. Tissue paper consumption grew at 10.1%, outpacing national GDP growth. Tissue paper was among China’s most important exports, accounting for 22% of total export volume in 2004. Fluting medium consumption reached 9.21 million tons, an increase of 14.8%, 1.11 million tons more than production. The consumption gap was only for high strength grade while low and medium grade fluting medium consumption was equal to its production. The gap had to depend on import. Liner board and white paper board experienced rapid growth of 20% or so in terms of consumption and production. In these two grades, consumption exceeded production by 1.26 million tons and 1.02 million respectively.

In line with China’s commitment to WTO terms, paper and paper board tariffs continued to adjust lower in 2004. Art paper, kraft, linerboard and duplex board tariffs went declined from 7% to 5%. Fluting medium tariffs slipped from 11.7% to 8.3%. However, as domestic production increased heavily and domestic paper and paperboard quality improved significantly, China’s domestic market made more gains towards self-sufficiency with imported paper and paperboard falling to 6.14 million tons, 3.3% less than in previous years.

The structure of China’s raw material industry has improved gradually. Waste paper pulp breakdown increased to 52% of the country’s total pulp consumption from 49% in 2003. Wood pulp breakdown increased to 22% from 21% in 2003. Meanwhile, non-wood pulp breakdown dropped to 26% from 30% by as many as four percentage points. As far as raw material was concerned, Chinese paper production quality experienced significant increase in 2004. In 2004, China’s imported pulp reached 7.32 million tons and waste paper 12.3 million tons, 21% and 31% more than previously. The pulp to waste paper pulp import ratio was increased to 52.1% from 49.6% in 2003. China’s fiber resource however, showed more dependence on import, which could add more risk to the sustained development of China’s papermaking industry.

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