The retail prices of text books for secondary school will witness a surge up to 5 percent to 10 percent.
The increase will take place in the garb of using quality cardboard for title covers, including glossy fine paper for text pages.
Book publishers Oxford University Press, Gaba, FEP International and Paramount have more than 75 percent of market share collectively. More than 80 percent of English medium schools in Karachi prescribed a number of books of these publishers for class I to VIII. Besides they also recommend text books of these publishers for Montessori level (nursery and kindergarten level).
The publishers usually announce a discount up to 10 percent to buyers on start of every academic year but this offer will off-colour the rebate on pretext of anticipating increase in price.
In absence of any monitoring authority on government level to monitor the prices of text books, these publishers unilaterally increase the price of books. A senior member of All Pakistan Paper Merchants Association (APPMA) Rauf Ansari said, “Increase in the prices of paper and paperboard has affected the local price of notebooks, copies, textbooks and office stationery.” The leading publishers usually import around 60 percent of all types of paper and paper board for their requirements and rest of the produce need has been acquired from local purchase.
The commercial importers were paying minimum 25 percent more on imports, now actual cost has been increased to 32 percent, he added. Country imports around 76,000 tonnes paper products of all kinds annually. While under customs tariff, paper is treated as finished goods under section (X) chapter 48 of Pakistan Customs Tariff, at high customs duty slab, at the rate of 20 percent to 25 percent, while in customs policy, raw material is at 10 percent or zero rate duty slab.
He said the increased sales tax has increased the import cost by around Rs 8 per kg on all kinds of paper. “We import paper and duplex box paper from Indonesia, China, UK and other countries to meet our domestic requirements, while local mills cater around 65 percent of our requirements.” He said around 60 percent imported material is used for making office stationery and high-grade paper products and imported cardboards cater around 35 percent of our needs.
The import cost on all types of paper and paperboard comes around $750 a metric tonne to $850 a metric tonne. Around 25 percent imported material is used for making notebooks and high quality paperbacks books while more than 50 percent local paper is used in making secondary and higher secondary school books.
Prices of different standards of paper have also risen by Rs 6,200 per tonne in the local market just before the start of manufacturing and printing season of textbooks and copies. The price of semi-fine paper has increased to around Rs 57,200 from Rs 48,400 per tonne, which is used in the production of textbooks. The price of lower quality and normal paper increased from Rs 49,500 to Rs 54,000 per tonne, which is used in the production of copies and other items.
The price of fine quality paper used in different value-added products has increased to Rs 66,000 from Rs 56,000 per tonne. Around 75 percent paper merchants buy paper from local paper companies that supply paper to majority of the publishers and manufacturers of various paper products. Pakistan imports different qualities of paper from Japan, Indonesia, China and some other countries but the 60 percent import duty discourages the publishers and printers to use imported paper.
A senior member of Pakistan Pulp Paper and Board Mills Association (PPPBMA) said, “We are importing wood pulp at around $920 per tonne from Canada, USA, Indonesia and Sweden, besides paying one percent excise duty including regular taxes and sales tax.” Due to rising wood pulp prices in international market and higher customs duty on commercial import, prices of paper and paperboard have increased in the country. Around 100 units of PPPBMA were braving high cost of business, energy crisis and production loss, but still we were selling our products with a minimal increase of around 10 percent.
Local mills prepare around 3,600 to 4,500 tonnes of paper every month and increase their output by 45 percent during April to July when demand goes up on the back of publishing school books and copies. The manufacturers normally manufacture three qualities of paper, fine paper, semi-fine paper and normal paper. They have already demanded the government to rationalise tax policy and revise duty and sales tax on the paper and board. A book publisher said surge in the basic raw material of books and copies would definitely increase the prices of these items in the coming academic session, which will start in mid-April in Sindh and mid-September in Punjab.
The provincial textbook boards usually use locally manufactured paper in their products and import only when the local paper suppliers show their inability to provide them required quantity.
Prices for the end users can be controlled if the government reduces customs duty to a uniform level of 10 percent from 20 to 25 percent on two categories, (uncoated and coated paper and board), representatives of PPPBMA and APPMA said.