INS urges govt. to withdraw 10% customs duty on newsprint

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The Indian Newspaper Society on Friday urged the government to save the newspaper industry by scrapping the “unbearable burden” of 10 percent customs duty imposed on newsprint, uncoated paper used for printing newspapers and light weight coated papers for magazines. The Executive Committee of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) made this appeal to the government in its emergency meeting here. The INS, in a statement, called for “urgent intervention” by the government to save the Indian newspaper industry by scrapping the unbearable burden imposed on it. It asked for the withdrawal of the 10 percent customs duty imposed on newsprint, uncoated paper used for printing of newspapers and lightweight coated papers used for magazines on July 6. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced in her Budget speech that customs duty of 10 percent will be levied on imported newsprint, uncoated and lightly coated paper.

The total consumption of standard newsprint in India is 2.5 million tonnes and the indigenous mills have a capacity of 1 million tonnes only, the INS said. It appears that the Indian newsprint manufacturers have misrepresented to the government that they are in a position to meet the entire requirement, it said. Last year, there was severe shortage of newsprint worldwide but the Indian industry was able to export only 12,726 tonnes of newsprint, which shows that there was no idle capacity available in India and the newsprint capacity showcased by the local manufacturers to the government is fallacious, it said. The quality of indigenous newsprint is considerably inferior to that which is imported, restricting its usage on modern printing presses, the INS said. The tearing of paper reels of domestic newsprint on presses is more than three times as compared to imported, it said. This leads to excessive wastage and loss of productivity, the INS said.

The reliability of supplies from domestic newsprint mills is uncertain as many of these mills are facing show cause notices from central pollution board, which poses a serious risk to the business continuity of supplies from these mills, it said. The INS said that in case of uncoated (glazed) and lightweight coated (LWC), there is no domestic capacity at all. Publishers of newspapers and magazines are already reeling under financial pressure due to many factors like lower advertisement revenues, higher costs and digital onslaught from technical giants, it said. Asserting that small and medium newspapers will go into deeper losses and many may be forced to shut down due to imposition, the INS called for withdrawal of the 10 per cent customs duty.

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