Pulp industry concentrates on the South America – Asia axis

Pulp industry concentrates on the South America – Asia axis

The past 10 years have seen redistribution of the global pulp market. Production contracted on the traditional large producer continent, North America. European and Asian production volumes have remained more or less unchanged, whereas new production capacity, particularly for short-fibre pulp, has been constructed increasingly in Brazil and now also in Uruguay.

“Securing availability of raw material is clearly vital for the pulp industry. Investments will be directed to the locations where stand rotation is fast and a functioning infrastructure is in place,” summarises Suvi Anttila, CEO of Indufor Oy, a company providing expert services for forestry and the forest industry.

China shuffles the deck

Asia reached its current level of pulp production at the end of the last century. China and Indonesia are now both among the world’s top 10 pulp producers. Demand for short-fibre pulp has seen the highest growth rate globally. “The rapid increase in production volumes puts sustainable development to the test, and international attention is focusing more and more on the new players. China too has established eucalyptus plantations. Moreover, China procures short-fibre pulp in large quantities from South America for the purposes of fine paper production, as the increase in consumption exceeds the growth rate of domestic production,” says Suvi Anttila of Indufor.

In Africa, pulp production has been very limited thus far, but companies, investors, and development banks are interested in this continent’s potential. For example, Mozambique, Uganda, and Ghana have been at the focus of attention for a long time. Now it is important to disseminate information and knowledge also to African countries on how to establish sustainable tree plantations.

On the long-fibre side, Russia is a wild card, Anttila says, explaining: “In Russian territory, several large-scale pulp projects are in progress, but the international forest companies are concerned about the uncertainty related to foreign investments. The country’s immense forest resources – softwood in the main – are not exploited, and wood cannot be transported out of the forest, because the development of the infrastructure leaves much to be desired.”

“I have faith in the future of pulp and paper”

According to the newly appointed President of Metso Paper and Fiber Technology, Pasi Laine, the future of the forest industry is bright. “The potential uses of fibre in various solutions are almost unlimited,” he says.

Although consumption of pulp and paper in on the decline in North America and Europe, total global consumption is projected to increase by two per cent annually. Consumption of board will see the most accentuated growth, as the needs of transport and packaging increase.

Pasi Laine has solid faith in the potential of the forest industry. He says: »The advantage of wood lies in its renewability as a raw material. We must work toward the goal of wood eventually replacing non‑renewable resources, such as mineral oil.”

“I hope that the domestic and international forest industries alike will be able to expand the scope of wood’s use as a raw material significantly. For example, the garment industry is already using lyocell as raw material, and this must surely be only one of the many possibilities. It is hard to outline a scenario in which the use of fibres would decrease, say, within the next 50 years,” Laine says.

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