Staff Reporter

Coimbatore: Paper manufacturers should maximise automation in their units to have competitive advantage, S.R. Rabinder, vice-president of Indian Agro and Recycled Paper Mills Association, said here on Friday.

Inaugurating a two-day workshop on automation in paper and board manufacturing he said that some of the large-scale units had gone in for automation. There were over 700 small-scale units with minimal automation. “Survival will be difficult for these units when the tariff barriers are removed,” he said. Competing countries such as China had advantage over India in infrastructure, power and finance. “Despite the odds, we can do better with automation,” he said.

A Rs. 600 crore-technology upgradation fund was likely to be announced for the paper industry after the elections. This would help the units repay the credit for modernisation. So, the units, especially the smaller ones, should make use of the scheme and go in for automation, he said.

R. Krishnaswamy, Chairman and Managing Director of Sripathi Paper and Boards Private Limited, said the economic slowdown had affected units that made industrial paper products, though the writing paper was not hit. Cost of production could be brought down further. Most of the units depended on used paper as raw material and this was imported. The rupee depreciation in the recent months had eroded the bottomline of the importing units.

Priority

P.G. Mukundan, secretary general of the association told The Hindu on Thursday that Government should give priority to agro and recycled paper in its purchases.

He said Coimbatore District in Tamil Nadu, Kashipur-Muzzafarnagar in the North and Aurangabad-Wapi in the West were some of the major paper industry hubs in the country. South India had nearly 250 paper mills.

About 70 per cent of paper production in the country now was free of wood. The agro paper industry used bagasse, rice and wheat straw, jute and wild grasses as raw materials. However, sustained availability of raw materials was a challenge.

Some mills that had been using wood traditionally continue to do so. The market size of the paper industry in the country was nearly Rs. 25,000 crore. Exports were just 2 per cent to 3 per cent and the potential was huge in the international market.

Some of the agro and recycled paper manufacturing mills used the environment mark on products and this should go up. Consumer awareness should also improve. Products from the competing countries in the international market cost nearly 25 per cent less. The domestic mills would be able to bring down the costs by nearly five per cent by going in for automation. Value-addition and focus on quality would also help improve exports, he said.

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