New Delhi: The print media industry is among the sectors that received a raw deal in Modi government’s first budget in its second term. In her maiden budget speech Friday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a 10 per cent customs duty on newsprint.
The duty will be applicable to the uncoated paper used for printing of newspapers, as well as the lightweight coated paper used for magazines.
The move will further hit the Indian newspaper industry, which till last year had been grappling with high newsprint prices in the wake of China’s decision to stop production of newsprint as part of its efforts to curb excess pollution in the country.
By 2018, newsprint prices had risen by $200 (nearly Rs 13,000) a tonne in over two years. This was also fuelled by China’s decision to import newsprint after it stopped producing its own.
But over 2019, according to industry sources, newsprint prices have gone down globally because of falling newsprint consumption, which in turn has led to several mills shutting down worldwide.
At present, depending on the grammage (density), newsprint costs around $550 (Rs 37,709) per tonne on an average. “At a time when the newspaper industry is globally seeing such crises, where consumption has reduced and so many mills are shutting down, a 10 per cent customs duty on newsprint will definitely hit the newspaper industry further,” an industry source told ThePrint.
“In all likelihood, you will see the number the pages in the newspaper going down drastically in the months to come,” the source added.
Too early to comment on kind of impact
Anil Vig, managing director of Anika International, a leading newsprint supplier, said while a 10 per cent customs duty on newsprint would definitely have an impact on the industry, it was too early to comment on the kind of impact it would have.
As per the 2019-20 budget, a five per cent customs duty will also be applicable on printed books (including covers for printed books) and printed manuals.
R. Rajmohan, president of the Association of Indian Magazines (AIM), called the move highly unfortunate.
“This is a double whammy for print media which is going through unprecedented crises, caused by declining revenues on account of the macro economic conditions,” he said in a statement.
The association urges the Union government to withdraw the 10 per cent customs duty and help the print media industry, he added.
This is an updated version of the article.