A report from the Vietnam Pulp and Paper Association (VPPA) showed that the country’s paper consumption reached 2.9 million tones last year. Average consumption per capita in Vietnam rose from 26.44kg in 2010 to 29.61kg in 2011 and 37.2kg in 2012.
VPPA Secretary General Vu Ngoc Bao said last year’s paper exports to 18 countries, mostly to the US, Taiwan and Japan, were estimated at US$425 million, less than half the value of paper products for domestic use.
Although the domestic production of pulp jumped remarkably from 345,000 tonnes in 2010 to 373,400 tonnes in 2011 and 484,300 tonnes in 2012, it was far from meeting local demands. And Vietnam had to import a similar amount of pulp and paper.
In fact, Vietnam has huge potential for developing the paper industry as it owns large areas of forest which are yet to be fully exploited.
Most of the shavings from gum trees and acacia hybrids are shipped abroad with volumes jumping 10-fold over recent times, from 400,000 tonnes in 2001 to more than 5.4 million tonnes in 2011, making Vietnam the largest exporter of such shavings.
By a curious paradox, China and Japan purchased wood shavings at a low price of US$110-120 per tonne and used them to produce and resell pulp for around US$900-1,000 per tonne.
To deal with the shortage of materials Vietnam has concentrated on recycling used paper, including old corrugated containers (OCC), old magazines (OMG), old newspapers (ONP) and residential mixed paper (RMP), which are imported from the US, Japan and New Zealand.
Nearly 100 percent of packaging paper, 90 percent of tissue and 60 percent of newspapers in Vietnam are now made from recycled paper.
Last year, the total amount of recycled paper consumed reached 1.45 million tonnes, 987,100 tonnes of which are locally made and 463,000 tonnes imported.
In 2013 the paper industry is forecast to face snags in finding outlets for its products as the economic recession has led to stockpiles of paper.
Statistics from the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) said the volume of paper in stock has increased by 33.7 percent in the first two months of this year compared to the same period two years ago.
VPPA Secretary General Bao said due to a decline in paper consumption, some domestic producers have had to reduce or even stop their operations to minimise their stock holdings.
In addition, there is fierce competition between the sales arms of these producers, Bao added.
The MoIT predicted that the total paper production output will reach 2.18 million tonnes in 2013, 17.7 percent higher than last year.
However, something of a paradox remains as Vietnam still has to import about 1.3 million tonnes of assorted paper worth US$1.35 billion to meet local demands.