The middle grades of recovered paper were proving to be the focus of attention as September drew to a close. A leading UK consumer had increased its prices by upwards of £5 per tonne across several grades and, at the time of writing, the marketplace was waiting to see whether other domestic mills would follow suit.
The decision by the company in question appears to have been a response to a lack of available supply of grades such as coloured best pams and multigrade.
"The printers are not busy and there is not a lot of material about," MRW was told this week. "Also, there are a lot of good export orders out there." The increases have brought mills' prices more into line with export market levels, although a gap of £1 or £2 per tonne still exists for some grades.
Indeed, generation of middle grades has become a focus of deep concern within the industry, with several contacts arguing that price increases were "desperately needed" to provide an incentive to carry out less cost-efficient collections.
"There is nothing in the current price structure to encourage a merchant to go out and collect more," it was observed. "The further you travel or the smaller the office, the more it costs to collect. It's the law of diminishing returns." Recent increases in labour and transport costs have exaggerated this.
Supply is fairly short across all grades of recovered paper and board, and merchant processors have been turning material around fairly quickly in most instances.
Strong export orders were also reported for the bulk grades of recovered paper, notably from China, Indonesia and India. But there has been no evidence of major price movements: the domestic price of old KLS is unchanged at £45, while £60-£63 per tonne is currently available for export, with Chinese buyers again prepared to pay top price. Meanwhile, UK prices of mixed paper have remained stolidly between £25 and £30 per tonne - still some way short of export levels of £39-£42.
One industry figure pointed to significant variations in what was being termed "mixed paper", and expressed the hope that the revision of EN 643 would establish much-needed tolerance levels for this grade.
Among the deinking grades, domestic prices are broadly unchanged, whereas export levels have crept higher for news and pams and overissue news on the back of decent demand. China and Indonesia were again identified as keen buyers of UK deinking material during the past month. As for the higher grades of recovered paper, a healthy level of export orders was reported for good-quality No 2 best whites but, overall, this sector of the recovered paper market remains fairly static.
Mixed fortunes are indicated by latest figures from the UK paper and board industry. The tissue sector, for example, has reported a 3% increase in toilet roll consumption so far this year and an even more pronounced rise in sales of towelling products - albeit from a low starting point. By contrast, the market for facial and other discretionary tissue products h