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Feature: Confusion continues over commingled exports

The UK enjoyed a spectacular 2004 in terms of recovered paper exports, latest figures from the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) have confirmed. A total of 2.587 million tonnes were exported last year compared with 1.861 million tonnes in the previous year; as recently as 2001, the annual export figure had been below one million tonnes.

Shipments to China more than doubled last year to over 720,000 tonnes - equivalent to 28% of all UK recovered paper exports. In receiving almost 390,000 tonnes last year, India overtook Indonesia as the second largest overseas market for UK recovered paper.

The CPI statistics underline the massive churn in export destinations in recent times. A colossal 68% of all UK recovered paper exports went to Asia last year compared with 59% in 2003. Meanwhile, European countries accounted for only 31% of UK exports, as against 39% in the previous year. The balance in both cases is made up by the rest of the world.

Excitement over these impressive figures has been dampened somewhat by the furore surrounding Grosvenor Waste Management and its rejected shipments. A meeting was due to be held late last week involving representatives from a range of interested parties, including the recovered paper sector, consumers, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Environment Agency.

Commenting on wider issues, several leading industry figures called this week for a stop on the export of co-mingled material labelled as recovered paper "because it's damaging to the recovered paper industry as a whole". Among the suggestions heard recently by MRW is an accredited exporter system covering all grades of recovered paper. One of the effects of this and previous load rejections is that Chinese inspectors are now said to be scrutinising loads more closely than before.

"But this shouldn't be a problem for legitimate exports," said one source. Another commented: "Things are coming to a head and it has forced the CCIC to reiterate its position on what is expected. But there is definitely a lot of confusion out there."

Turning to the markets, the past four weeks have produced few price movements either from domestic consumers or for export. The UK price of KLS has held steady at £50 per tonne while the export price went as high as £62 in recent weeks before returning to nearer £60 towards the end of April.

Chinese buyers are paying the top price while those in Korea and Indonesia have also been active. Sales to mainland Europe are fetching a price somewhere in between the UK and Far East. Domestic mixed paper prices have remained at between £25 to £30 per tonne, while £38 to £40 is achievable beyond these shores.

Deinking grades are also continuing to witness a differential between domestic and export prices. News & pams is fetching around £45 per tonne in the UK compared with £50 or more elsewhere, while export prices as high as £59 per tonne were reported this week in a slightly firmer overissue news market. There has been a slight "upward creep" in the export prices of some of the middle grades, including coloured best pams and multigrade. Some sources reported a slight surplus of sorted office waste leading to market softness, but other contacts said they had seen no evidence of this.

High grades have continued to experience healthy domestic and overseas demand, with some industry experts reporting slightly firmer prices.

One leading UK merchant processor sai

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