Paper industry faced unprecedented decline in 2023, says CEPI report

This comprehensive downturn across the paper and board industry highlights the significant challenges faced by the sector in adapting to post-pandemic market dynamics and external economic pressures. Image: Archive picture

The paper and board industry has witnessed a significant downturn in production and consumption in 2023, more severe than during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI). Preliminary figures reveal a 13 per cent drop in paper and board production among CEPI member countries, totalling 74.3 million tonnes.

Additionally, consumption fell by 15 per cent compared to the previous year, influenced by external factors such as a challenging economic environment, prolonged destocking by industry customers, and high energy costs.

All categories of paper and board reported declines, with the graphic paper segment experiencing the most substantial reduction of nearly 28 per cent in demand. CEPI suggests that digital content trends and significant destocking effects contributed to this sharp decrease.

Real downturn

Packaging paper and board production also saw a downturn, with a 12 per cent decline attributed to a slowdown in retail and e-commerce sectors. These sectors had previously seen increased demand during the pandemic, which has since reverted to pre-pandemic levels.

Conversely, sanitary and household paper showed relative resilience with only a 4 per cent decrease in demand, buoyed by stable consumption in the private consumer segment.

Pulp production in Europe decreased by almost 8%, primarily due to the closure of graphic paper mills, which also affected pulp production. However, market pulp production rose by 5 per cent in 2023, driven by full-capacity operations and strong demand from China.

Negatively impacted

The decline in recycled fibre-based packaging paper and board production, along with the closure of certain graphic paper mills, negatively impacted the consumption and utilization of paper for recycling in the CEPI area, decreasing by 7 per cent compared to 2022.

Source: Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI).