Uncertainty in China’s pulp market

March 4, 2019

By: The Working Forest Staff

BOSTON, PRNewswire — China’s GDP expansion slowed markedly in 2018, pulp prices have moderated following the third-longest price runup in recent history, and new trade restrictions threaten to stifle demand for wood fiber and finished goods. Still, China’s fundamentals will sustain growth in key segments over the next decade, finds Developments in the China Pulp Market: A Comprehensive Analysis and Outlook, a new Special Study from Fastmarkets RISI.

“The entire industry is asking whether it faces a pause in Chinese growth, or if the market is at the precipice of the next global recession and a collapse in demand,” said David Fortin, Fastmarkets RISI Vice President for Fiber Markets and co-author of the study. “Our base case forecast assumes growth will resume, but many risks remain.”

“Tissue and the grades used in hygiene products will be bright spots for demand over the next decade,” said Fortin. “Meanwhile, production of graphic paper and other paper and paperboard could slow or even reverse, in some cases. This shifting end-use demand profile for pulp will reverberate throughout global pulp markets.”

After a decades-long boom, China leads the world in both its consumption of market pulp and output of paper and board products. On the supply side, imported recovered paper (RCP) has been an essential input for Chinese manufacturers. Starting in late 2016, government restrictions on these imports shook the entire global supply chain for wood fiber.

“China has become increasingly reliant on imported pulp, due to the limited availability of economically viable fiber for domestic production. As a result, much of the country’s fiber needs are met from RCP imports which the new import policies have restricted. This has created increased volatility within China and altered global trade flows of pulp and paper.”  

 

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