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Publishing, media industry in big trouble

Newsprint price hike

23 November 2022


Staff Reporter :
The country's publishing and media industry have been severely suffering from high prices of paper and newsprint, forcing publishers and newspaper publishers to limit the number of books and newspapers in the face of rising production costs abnormally.
Prices of all kinds of newsprint papers have made a quantum leap by almost 100 per cent in a year, when things started getting back to normal with the pandemic loosening its grips, say stakeholders, including newspaper owners.
Besides, publishers predicted that book prices would rise by around 40 per cent, which might take them beyond the reach of lower-middle-income and middle-income groups - the main buyers of books due to the high cost of paper, ink, binding board, book cover and other raw materials.
Against this backdrop, the publishers on Tuesday have demanded to the government for taking steps to reduce the paper prices as the country's entire publishing sector are suffering a major disaster.
They made the demand under a banner of 'Srisanshil Prakash Oikya (SPO)' through a press conference on 'unusual increase of paper price and the crisis' held at the Jatiya Press Club on Monday afternoon.
In a written statement, SPO leader Milon Kanti Nath said that they are now buying one rim paper at Tk 3,500, which was Tk 1,600 during Ekushey Book Fair in February this year.
"One rim 80-gram paper price rose to Tk 2,750 from Tk 1,800 while one rim 100-gram paper price rose to Tk 3,300 from Tk 2,100 compared with the past year. The price is increasing gradually. We have become selective in printing and re-printing books as the rising prices are taking books beyond the reach of many," he said.
The SPO leaders demanded that the companies that occupy and control the paper market should match the transparency of their business investment and dividends with those of the neighboring countries and check whether the price of paper varies in quality or not.
They also fear that many publishers won't be able to publish new books or re-print in the upcoming Ekushey Book Fair if such  condition prevails in paper markets. Milan Kanti Nath said that the National Directorate of Consumer Rights Protection is very busy with daily consumer goods, but those who are involved in creating artificial shortage of paper, keep secret stockpiles and destabilize the paper market by playing tricks, should be brought under punishment.
Supply crunch of the raw materials, including waste paper and chemicals, higher import cost, devaluation of the Bangladesh taka against the US dollar, supply-chain disruption due to the Russia-Ukraine war, shipping costs, and a sudden upturn in demand after the scarcity are to blame for the price hike.
Some publishers have already postponed printing books while the daily newspapers have to increase price or cut short production to offset the higher operational costs.
The prices of newsprint papers may go further up in the days ahead, exacerbating the situation, industry people have expressed the fear. They say that, presently, the import prices of per-ton newsprint coming from countries like Korea, Russia, Indonesia, Canada, Spain and India, are between Tk 130,000 and Tk 152,000.
Last week, the price of each ton of newsprint of Korean make was Tk 152,000, up from Tk 84,000 a year ago. The Russian one costs Tk 138, 000 per ton.
Traders in Dhaka's Nayabazar and Fakirerpool hubs said the price of per-ton newsprint papers increased almost 100 per cent on average over the year.
A tonne of locally produced newsprint was selling at Tk 71,500 per tonnne in recent weeks compared to Tk 35,000 a year before.
Bangladesh has more than 100 paper mills with a combined annual production capacity of more than 15 lakh tonnes of paper and paper products.
Of the mills, seven major companies -- Akij Group, Amber Group, Bashundhara Group, Meghna Group, Partex Group, Creative Paper Mills, and Papertech Industries -- manufacture quality papers.
Among others, CEO of Somoy Prokashan Farid Ahmed, owner of Annanya Prokashani Monirul Huq, publisher of Kakoli Prokashani AK Nasir Ahmed, publisher of Abishkar Prokashani Delwar Hasan, owner of Jatiya Sahitya Prokash Kamol Kanti Das, publisher of Samagro Prokash Shawkat Ali and owner of Muktachinta Shihab Bahadur were present during press conference.

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