The paper industry: a sector in great demand
The paper industry, an essential sector
During these troubled times of health and economic crisis, some French paper mills were forced to stop production during the lockdown period as early as 15 March. Others, on the other hand, have been operating at full throttle.
Within this context, COPACEL (French Union of Paper, Cardboard and Cellulose Industries) has constantly raised awareness among the public authorities and insisted that their sector be recognised as essential to the security and continuity of the country’s economic and social life. There were three reasons for this request. First of all, without paper and packaging cartons, there is no packaging of goods (bags, food and pharmaceutical packaging) and all supply chains come to a standstill. Similarly, without hygiene papers, products essential to public health, such as tissues, towels and wipes, will soon run out. Finally, without graphic and special papers, there would be no more instructions for drugs, labels or banknotes.
With very strong demand, especially for packaging and hygiene products, the paper industry has been in great demand during this period of health crisis. Not to mention the current anti-plastics trend that’s been benefiting the paper industry for quite some time.
As a result, there is strong demand for raw materials
All these essential products coming out of French factories are dependent on basic raw materials, available on the French market or regularly imported.
Suppliers of recycled paper and cardboard (collectors and sorting centres), mainly French, suffered total closures during lockdown, leading to stationery production shutdowns lasting several weeks.
Paper pulp is either produced in France (about 1.6Mt each year) or purchased abroad (1.9Mt in 2019). It forms part of global resources and is transported all over the world, just like wheat, corn or soya beans. Paper producers import it from all producing countries, particularly northern Europe, the Americas or Asia.
The role of ports in the sector
French ports such as HAROPA have been in great demand to receive, store and re-export paper pulp to receiving sites. Port know-how is crucial for receiving conventional cargoes, which require specific and exemplary handling care.
HAROPA - Port de Rouen, which is one of the main ports specialising in the paper pulp sector in France, has been particularly prominent in meeting demand in recent months. The port of Rouen thus posted a net increase in activity in March and April - up 27% and 21% respectively compared to last year - and May is also looking up.
As for the terminals, they were fully mobilised during the 2 months of French lockdown and specialist operators worked continuously to deal with the additional cargoes received in March and April. Handling companies experienced in the paper industry have for their part mobilised all their means to process the volumes received conventionally under the best possible conditions, which have seen a marked increase during this period.
Given the current needs expressed, it is highly likely that intense activity in the pulp market will continue in the coming months.