Market pulp demand is rising sharply
“Unprecedented” has become a much used but wholly appropriate word – and it fits the pulp market today too.
China is back with a bang and it is the primary driver of an extraordinary bounce-back in demand for market pulp with papermakers back to ordering at pre-Covid levels, perhaps even higher. Yet while China is the main driver of buoyant demand, it is by no means the only country showing signs of optimism.
Europe’s market pulp demand is very strong and is back to pre-pandemic levels. Some of this is replenishing an empty supply chain but there is a definite sense that economies are opening again.
Unfortunately, pulp suppliers are unable to step up to meet increased demand at the same pace. Mills everywhere have been forced to postpone maintenance shutdowns which can no longer be delayed, and we are no exception. We have been through the ups and down of the cycle before, but we recognize that rising demand in the face of tight supply has created a perfect storm and goes some way to explaining the rapid upturn for market pulp.
To maintain as much supply as we can, however, we have postponed much of the work planned for the Spring shutdown at Värö until Q4. Only essential maintenance to comply with legislative requirements will go ahead in April, reducing the stop to 3-5 days. This does not mean we can increase production, but we will keep deliveries as consistent as we can during this period of very tight supply. Other suppliers will be taking these decisions too.
There are simply no spare market pulp volumes in Europe, but we are doing our best to optimise our capacity and we will continue to work with customers to ride out the current cycle as smoothly as possible.
I very much hope that it will be possible to meet again in person before too long. Until then, please take care and stay safe.
Henrik Wettergren, Vice President Södra Cell
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