Paper crisis: Reduce duty, increase import

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

The competition commission has to be given due credit. Neither consumers nor traders had gone to them with the issue of paper crisis.

Yet this government agency has organised a meeting to exchange views recently with the concerned parties to resolve the issue, where sufferers freely expressed their problems.

Publishers allege paper prices have doubled within the past year, in some cases it went up two and a half times. The price didn’t soar this high in the international market. In fact, the price of paper is still quite low in neighbouring India.

Meanwhile, the many publishers expressed their apprehension that the increase in the paper prices will radically reduce the number of books being published in the February book fair while book price will rise. This dear isn’t unfounded either.

Compared to last time, one-third books could be published. The price could go up by 30 to 40 per cent.

As per Prothom Alo reports, the demand of paper swells up when it is time for the February book fair and publication of new textbooks in January.

Taking the chance, traders increase the price as per their whims. Traders allege that supply of paper in the market has shrunk up due to production in the paper mills being disrupted.

Talking to traders at capital’s Nayabazar area, the Prothom Alo correspondent has learnt that the price of paper is increasing every day in the wholesale market.

The price of white print paper rose to Tk 160,000 from Tk 135,000 after an increase of Tk 25,000 per tonne within a week. Price of white newsprint went up by Tk 15,000 per tonne. This paper is now being sold at Tk 135,000 after going up from Tk 120,000.

After an increase of Tk 30,000, price of ledger paper stands at Tk 170,000 per tonne. Price of newsprint paper has gone up from Tk 64,000 to Tk 85,000 a tonne. Price of this low cost paper has increased 33 per cent in the last two weeks.

Traders have talked about paper mill owners plotting behind this price hike. Mill owners have hiked the price two to two and a half times more than the price of pulp, raw material of paper manufacture, has increased.

The domination of syndicates is nothing new to Bangladesh’s commodity market. Whenever the supply of a commodity is short in the market, the syndicates take the chance for extra profit.

They increase product price manifold whenever they can sense common consumers falling in trouble. Sometimes they even create artificial crises.

Both the mill owners and the wholesalers are liable for the price hike of paper. Traders complain that price has increased due to less paper being supplied from the mill.

Then again, mill owners say that they are unable to keep the mills running properly due to fuel shortage.

No matter whether the mill owners’ or the traders’ schemes are behind the paper price going up, the government cannot remain idle. The responsibility of the government in alleviating the crisis will be to ensure power supply for the mills to keep operating.

Secondly, if the import duty on paper is reduced it can be hoped that it will have a positive impact on the market. Supervision has to be strengthened as well, so that mill owners or traders cannot raise prices unreasonably.