We are all too familiar with the supply chain challenges that currently beset our industry. Energy price surges, increased prices for raw materials and logistics, labour shortages and inflation, have marked the environment for all of us in the past two years. We are also facing the uncertainty of EU legislation which does not prepare a sound ground for long-term investment decisions. None of these adverse factors have prevented us from producing on full capacity to match the surging demand for sustainable cartonboard packaging.
Our industry has once again demonstrated its resilience in the face of disruption. We have battled respectably to meet the high demand for cartonboard in the first half of the year. On the virgin fibre side, we saw an easing of pressure as free Russian volumes became available for other European markets. When it comes to recycled fibres, we have had to adapt to major setbacks. Firstly, Baden Karton, burdened with considerable hikes in gas prices, ceased production, removing an estimated 150,000 tonnes per year of WLC from the market, and more recently, the fire at RDM Blendecques recycled board mill, caused production to be temporarily suspended. Fortunately, for RDM, the prognosis is good, and it is encouraging to read about RDM’s ambitious plans to expand its GD board production capacity by up to 200,000t over the next 3 years, with production at Blendecques scheduled to restart early next year.
The second half of 2022 presents similar challenges, with the added complication of rising inflation. It is anticipated this has a detrimental impact through price increases, as well as reduced purchasing power for consumers as a result of declining real incomes. This is likely to manifest itself in fewer luxury and non-essential goods purchased, with Europeans faced with unprecedented increases in the cost of living. How, and to what extent, this affects our industry, remains to be seen.
Further uncertainty remains in the market given by the war in Ukraine, a resurge of Covid infection rates and the Tsunami of EU regulations.
What is certain, however, is that the cartonboard industry will continue to adapt to forthcoming crises, remaining agile at every turn. We have consistently proven to be resilient and dogged in the face of adversity, and I am confident we will come out of this situation stronger than ever before.
Demand for fibre-based packaging continues to soar, with the world’s largest retailers and brands looking to cement their sustainability credentials. Although the going is tough, we continue to be buoyed by the prospect of developing relationships with our customers and supporting them by innovating new, renewable and recyclable packaging, and leading a circular packaging economy the world deserves.
It is our call and the call for our planet.
Horst Bittermann, President