Withdraw customs duty on newsprint: Veerendrakumar

M P Veerendrakumar (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

M P Veerendrakumar, a Kerala MP, on Thursday urged the government to withdraw the budget proposal to impose a 10% customs duty on newsprint, saying that it will have an adverse impact on an already stressed print media.

Veerendrakumar, chairman and managing director of the Malayalam newspaper Mathrubhumi, said that the customs duty on newsprint has come at a time when the print media is "already reeling under severe financial pressure" due to many factors like lower advertisement revenue, higher costs and digital onslaught from technological giants.

"Small and medium newspapers will go into deeper losses and many of them will be forced to close down," he said while speaking in the budget debate.

Noting that there was no customs duty since 2009, he said that the budget proposal this time was the highest ever customs duty slapped on newsprint in the history of the industry.

"Though the move is touted as an effort to provide a level-playing field to the domestic newsprint industry, there is no advantage in reality. The Indian newsprint industry has an annual production capacity of one million tons. This is only up to 40% of the annual demand in India at present. Also the country does not have any advantage in installing fresh newsprint capacity as the prime inputs bear huge environmental burden," he said.

Veerendrakumar said that to increase newsprint production, one need trees to be cut for pulp, increase quality recycled fibre and power.

"In fact, China has recently shut many newsprint factories to reduce environmental hazard. Another disadvantage of the Indian newsprint is that the quality of the paper is not suitable for running on high-speed modern printing machines. No manufacturer in India is producing uncoated glazed and light-weight coated paper. So, there is no role, at present, left for the Indian newsprint industry to play in this area," he said.

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