Supply of packaging grades over the recent holiday period was said by many to be spasmodic, perhaps reflecting the disappointing sales figures experienced by the retail sector around the festive period. Stock levels are currently in line with early-year expectations, and material appears to be moving extremely well across the entire spectrum of grades.
In general, prices available on the export market have continued to outstrip domestic levels: old KLS is attracting well over £50 per tonne from some sources, with Chinese buyers said generally to be paying the highest levels. Mixed paper is continuing to fetch "the high £30s" on the export front, with China again heading the queue. Chinese New Year celebrations were said this week to have created nothing more than a "blip" in trading patterns. The country's demand for OCC and mixed has been particularly strong, but there is evidence of growing Chinese interest across a broader range of grades - including coloured best pams and multigrade. For the moment, however, India, Indonesia and Taiwan remain the chief overseas buyers of these grades.
Right at the very end of last year, China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) published a new listing of overseas companies approved to supply recyclable materials; it also announced that notices of disqualification would be issued to firms which had applied for their registration prior to August 1 last year but which had not gained approval. Companies receiving these notices will be permitted to re-apply for registration under the AQSIQ scheme six months after the issue date of the notice. The US Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries has begun a study of AQSIQ approvals and disqualifications to date in order to determine whether any patterns can be identified with regard to the type, size or location of companies accepted - or otherwise - into the registration scheme. Most of the UK's major recovered paper exporters appear to have secured approval.
The registration system has not slowed down exports to China, where "demand in 2005 has picked up where it left off in 2004", according to UK exporters. "The only small fly in the ointment," said one, "has been availability of containers, which has been spasmodic in some cases depending on the destination port." Meanwhile, there appears to have been an easing in the congestion and delay problems associated with shipping into India.
As noted in our previous paper report, one leading industry figure believes UK plc could benefit from "a more co-ordinated and joined-up" approach to recovered paper exports. However, other leading players in the sector argue that an initiative of this type would be difficult to implement in an established free enterprise environment. Such a move also had potential legal implications, one added.
Returning to current market conditions, de-inking grades are continuing to see higher prices for export than for domestic business. The home price for news and pams has lost some of the ground gained towards the end of last year wh