The Financial Express

Paper stays strong in export market

Paper stays strong in export market

The 2-year-long corona-induced stalemate has started petering out. With it the global export-import activities find themselves coming free of the cloud which gathered over them during the pandemic. The Russia-Ukraine conflict is impeding the revival of normalcy. But it's still largely confined to a region. Of the many lately pandemic-free export sectors, the one of exporting paper and paper products from Bangladesh is among them. Local experts say the area is poised to get back its earlier comfortable status. Upbeat news about export performances in the area has, evidently, elated the Bangladeshi exporters. The manufacturers have also started looking forward to the return of better times they enjoyed earlier. The buoyant mood intensified by confidence stems from concrete facts: the spectacular growth from the products' export earnings stood at $53.3 million in the first seven months of the ongoing fiscal year. The figure is 34.56 per cent higher than the corresponding period last FY, according to data revealed by Export Promotion Bureau (EPB). 

The export earning feat of the said seven months is 24.88 per cent higher than the EPB's 'strategic target' of $42.68 million, the data added. The rise in the volume of paper and paper product exports and the earnings present to realities being detected across the world. They point out two features opposed to each other: the online media's aggression on the use of paper, leading to continued drop in its use, and the paper products' rising acceptability due to their biodegradable nature. The quintessential message of these two aspects of paper-use is both the phasing out of paper in the highly developed world, and the increased manufacture of packaging materials using paper. Environmental activists continue to protest worldwide against the use of polythene packages. A striking feature of the use of paper in general is the balance tilted towards increased use of natural paper products instead of their plastic counterparts. At the same time, traditional paper is still widely in use in all the online dependent countries. 

For, most of the people dependent on digital communication one or another time feel the need for printout, i.e. paper. The crux of the matter is it's still a long time before man can invent alternatives to paper-based printouts. And the demand for the paper-based biodegradable packaging products is expected to rise in foreseeable future. A spectacular opening to the latter area awaits Bangladesh. 

This largely untapped export market has undergone the unexpected impacts of a global pandemic, and also a regional brutal war in the Russo-Ukrainian region. The news of posting a 34.56 per cent rise in export earnings from paper products compared to that in the previous year heralds better days for this globally used consumer item. According to the reliable sources in the paper industry, the assorted paper products exported from Bangladesh include different types of tissues and liner media and packaging materials. These products played a great role in the rise of demands for the country's paper goods. The paper mill owners have visibly taken heart from the revival of demand abroad for the Bangladesh paper products. As has been observed by a mill owner, the sector has almost won back its earlier turf after struggling through a depressive phase in both local and international demand. They have termed the growth in export earnings from paper and paper goods a turnaround for the sector which is growing fast. This fast emerging particular export field needs low labour cost, which is viewed as a great fillip for the sector. 

An in-depth look into the paper product export demonstrates that the sector's export earnings declined to $77.97 million in FY 2019-20, in tandem with the pandemic outbreak, from $81.73 million. The figures were $56.87 million in FY 2016-17 and $75.76 million in FY 2017-18. An encouraging piece of news is the local paper manufacturers enjoy a 10pc cash incentive. With great prospects awaiting Bangladesh, the country at present exports paper and paper products to over 50 destinations. Those include the US, the UK, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, India, Nepal and Bhutan. This diversified number of the countries importing paper products from Bangladesh adds to the fame of Bangladesh as a source of export items normally dubbed exclusive. It's only the nations engaged in activities related to lifting themselves up to certain socio-economic and knowledge-based levels, which are expected to remain dependent on Bangladesh. For the LDC-status aspirant country, it's a preliminary task to be accomplished at the earliest. And as a corollary, Bangladesh can ill afford to dishearten the development strategists. The country was derided as a 'basket case' in the 1970s, immediately after its independence in 1971. It had to wait for two long decades before its robust emergence as a readymade garments (RMG) exporting country. 

Ups and downs followed before it entered newer areas of export. Those included frozen fish, finished leather goods, jute products, vegetables etc. Of these items, the demand for the Bangladesh leather goods abroad continues to rise. Lately, the country's leather products have been found poised to occupy the second-largest position in country's export basket. Had not the 2-year corona pandemic disrupted the global trade, the export-import sector in particular, Bangladesh would have embarked on exporting newer goods. The impressive export earnings from paper and paper goods have, indisputably, added to the overall export prospects for Bangladesh. Positive signs are cropping up for the future. They stem from the fact that some private sector paper mills are increasing their capacity with a new variety of paper products. These are expected to meet the present times' needs for them in the country and outside. 

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