According to the cultural correspondent of Tasnim News Agency, the Supreme Leader of the Revolution, during his visit to the book fair during the years 2012 to 2014, repeatedly emphasized the need for domestic paper production and the removal of existing barriers to production. After this attention of the Supreme Leader, the doors of factories that had been eroding for years were reopened, and the private and public sectors began to plan the production of writing paper, which was the main need of the country and our connecting point to imports. But it did not take long for the production line of writing paper to fail, and the production lines produced alternative products. The government, on the other hand, turned its full attention to imports to the point that billions of dollars were spent on paper imports during the years when the currency was scarce, and sometimes imports of medicines lacked it, imports that in many cases did not reach their destination and the foreign currencies were canalized in the pockets of importers that did not exist at all."
Paper producers were heartbroken in the second half of the 2010s; because the production of writing paper, which was reviving in the late 2000s with the establishment of the largest manufacturing plant in the Middle East, reached zero after 10 years so that neither the private nor the public sectors were not willing to invest in it.
In the final year of the Twelfth Cabinet, the cultural authorities did not know how to supply the printing paper needed to print and publish and again demanded currency for imports, while if in all these years a fraction of the amount of these currencies had been spent on domestic production, the domestic production lines would not have been shut down and part of the market demand would have been met.
Iran needs 300,000 tons of printing and writing paper and newsprint annually. There is a nominal production capacity of 150,000 tons in the country, and out of this capacity, the share of production was zero in 2020-21.
In such a situation, the 13th Cabinet established its most important priority on supporting domestic production in the field of culture. In the very first days of the government, the President and the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance put paper production on the agenda in their proposed program to the parliament. Steps were taken and promises were made for next year. But what has been our situation in the field of paper production in the year we are going through the last days? What outlook can be envisaged for next year? Which plan can make more use of the government's determination to regulate domestic production? These are the questions that Tasnim News Agency has asked in an interview with Abolfazl Roghani Golpayegani, the president of the Paper and Cardboard Manufacturers Syndicate. In this interview, Roghani describes the current situation of the country in production according to the latest statistics and also complains about the lack of consultation between the Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade and Guidance with paper trade bodies. This conversation is as follows: formation
Mr. Roghan! To begin with, let us evaluate the current situation in Iran in the field of paper production, whether it is packaging paper or writing paper. What is our position in the field of paper production?
The situation of packaging paper in the country is very good, so much that we have very good production in this field and very proper exports; we have approximately one million and 600 thousand tons of production in this field, while the country needs 860,000 tons, so we have to start exporting.
Significant decline in packaging paper exports this year
In the first 10 months of this year, we had about 80,000 tons of exports, which is not a satisfactory figure, it can increase up to 500,000 tons, why were exports low? This is because of the momentary decisions that are made and create obstacles.
Competing with Turkey in exporting packaging paper to the region
In the field of packaging paper, our power in the region is such that we are heading to Turkey, both in terms of quality and production; in general, we have good conditions in the field of packaging paper.
Do we need to import raw materials in the field of packaging paper?
Yes, one of the most vital items of packaging paper is the import of raw materials; in 2021 until December, we imported about 121 thousand tons of wastepaper, which has become a high added value called packaging paper. We also imported 154 thousand tons of pulp. In the field of packaging paper, the situation of the country is normal. At the same time, we can meet 100% needs of the country.
We export packaging paper to the Middle East and Europe
So we can produce high quality packaging paper and can have good exports; we can play a role in the region as a producer and exporter to the Middle East and Europe.
In the field of writing paper, our situation is definitely not as well as packaging paper. But how has it been this year?
In the field of printing and writing paper, it should be said that in the era of Covid 19 outbreak, unlike packaging paper in which we faced an increase in consumption, we have seen a decrease in consumption. Although the consumption trend has been declining, but unfortunately the production process has not been appropriate at all. In the past year, the production situation has been declining as in the past.
According to statistics, the ceiling of the country's need for printing and writing paper is 300,000 tons, the country's production capacity reaches 140,000 tons per year, but this year only 20,000 tons of this paper has been produced.
Due to the fact that the support conditions have been in favor of imports so far, and the production has not had a share of these protections, the companies were not interested in producing writing paper.
The imports of more than 50% of the country's need for writing paper this year
In the field of writing paper, we are strongly dependent on imports; how much has been the volume of imports this year?
In my opinion, the consumption of writing paper in the country after the corona has decreased from 300 tons and reached from 230 to 250 tons. By January of this year, the import of writing paper has reached 150 thousand tons. Naturally, if we include February and March, it has reached 180 thousand tons, so more than 50% The country's needs have been met through imports and production has not been in good condition.
One of the good news in the field of writing paper is the government's determination to organize this field. How do you evaluate the measures taken so far?
Yes, the 13th Cabinet seems determined to change market conditions. The president has visited several paper mills so far; the first vice president follows paper production , but the Ministry of Guidance, which pursues domestic paper production, consults less with the paper and cardboard manufacturers' syndicate, inquires less from us , the syndicate has been and is consulted by the Ministry of Industry. But the paper has two mandates in the government, the Ministry of Guidance and the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Trade.
Mazandaran Wood and Paper Company, as the largest paper production factory in the country, is supposed to supply 30 to 40% of textbook printing paper.
We have several other factories in the country that can produce writing paper, so why do we not count on the capacity of these factories?
There are many companies that can produce writing paper, but they have prerequisites, they need financial resources for reconstruction and modernization, these factories have largely been decommissioned in recent years, including Pars Paper. On the other hand, government and Imam's command headquarters haves been investing on the Loh Sabz Jonoub Company for many years, and if we reach a conclusion, it can meet the needs of the country completely.
Shushtar Paper Mill needs to be financed for reconstruction and modernization, so most of these factories have turned to packaging paper in the current situation. Tabriz Company has the ability to produce writing paper, but it will not produce writing paper until the advance groundwork is not provided.
The need to reform the legal infrastructure in the field of paper
Improving the legal infrastructure, such as imposing a 9% VAT on production, laying the groundwork for the government and reinvesting in the production of printing and writing paper can shape a happy future for the industry.
In the area of law reform by the government, nothing has happened yet, unless the parliament, the judiciary power and the executive power agree to amend this part of the law. Nothing was seen in the renovation in next year's budget bill.
What do you expect from the Cabinet in the field of paper as a guild?
As a syndicate of paper and cardboard producers, we have heard the views and opinions of the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance about paper from the media or those around him. No meeting has been held so far. We expect to find attempts for organizing domestic production of paper and surely the guild to be consulted. Because paper is a strategic and important issue for the Islamic Republic and is also the concern of the Leader of the Revolution.
The time of consumers supporting view for domestic production
If Mazandaran factory can work at its capacity, it has the ability to produce 180,000 tons of paper per year, of which 90,000 tons are writing paper. The company has had this range of production in recent years and supplied the market. Now it is the time for other organizations to support the company and provide its needs, consumers should also look at domestic production with a supportive view.