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Feature: December shows falls across the board

A whopping 13.7% decline in recovered paper consumption during December provided an unwelcome footnote to 2005. According to latest statistics from the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI), UK mill consumption of recovered paper fell 2.6% last year from 4.625 million tonnes in 2004 to 4.507 million tonnes, while UK paper and board production slid 3.3% from 6.24 million tonnes to 6.033 million.

In the context of 2005 as a whole, December was somewhat unusual in that consumption dropped across all four classes of recovered paper. The most pronounced decline was recorded by Class II corrugated and kraft, consumption of which tumbled 23.5% from 162,281 tonnes in December 2004 to 124,216 tonnes in the final month of last year.

Double-digit percentage declines were also recorded by Class I mixed grades and Class IV high grades: consumption of the former fell 11.3% to 24,682 tonnes, while the latter’s total slumped 15.4% to 51,882 tonnes. Meanwhile, consumption of Class III newspapers and magazines edged just 1.7% lower to 133,077 tonnes.

Viewed from the 12-month perspective, however, corrugated and kraft was the only class of recovered paper to suffer a consumption decline in 2005. The end-year total of 1.89 million tonnes was some 9.7% below the 2.094 million recorded in 2004. Consumption of high grades improved by 5% last year to 758,862 tonnes, while the 1.545 million tonnes registered by newspapers and magazines represented an increase of 3% over the 2004 figure. Consumption of mixed grades advanced 1.7% from the 2004 total of 308,060 tonnes to 313,228 tonnes.

December also proved to be a largely negative month for UK mill intake of recovered paper. The mixed grades total of 20,117 tonnes was almost 20% below the 25,053 tonnes registered in December 2004. Intake of corrugated and kraft stumbled to 148,849 tonnes — a drop of 14.2% — and the high grades total slipped 5.1% from 61,046 tonnes to 57,928 tonnes. Once again, the most positive news was provided by newspapers and magazines, intake of which climbed 3.4% in December last year to 119,607 tonnes.

Broadly mirroring the consumption picture, corrugated and kraft was the only class of recovered paper to post a fall in intake for the whole of last year.

At 1.873 million tonnes, the 2005 total was a sizeable 11.8% short of the 2.123 million tonnes recorded in the previous year. The intake gains secured by the other classes of recovered paper were comparatively small: mixed grades +0.6% to 310,163 tonnes; newspapers and magazines +3.2% to 1.542 million tonnes; and high grades +4.4% to 778,781 tonnes.

Last year was characterised by significantly lower stock levels within UK mills. At the end of 2005, the total inventory stood at 116,750 tonnes, 21.9% down on the 149,511 tonnes reported at the close of the previous year. Last year concluded with an average supply of 1.5 weeks as against 1.7 weeks at the end of 2004.

That said, there was a 10.7% increase in inventory levels during December itself. Stocks of Class II corrugated and kraft followed up a 24.8% increase in November by soaring 89.1% the following month
to 50,188 tonnes, propelling supply at the prevailing rate of usage from 0.7 to 1.8 weeks. Class IV high
grades also built on a sizeable November stock increase with a further 11.4% surge in December to 27,011 tonnes. As a result, supply stretched out from 1.7 weeks to 2.3 weeks.

Moving decidedly in the opposite direction were stocks of Class

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