One supplier after another in the print industry has announced price hikes in recent months. All of them attributed the hikes to the spiraling costs of raw materials, freight, logistics, and procurement due to pandemic-related restrictions.
German press manufacturer Heidelberg and its rival Koenig & Bauer have both increased the prices of their equipment. Soaring input costs, including steel rebar and computer chips, prompted their decisions. The three major printing-plate makers—Agfa, Kodak, and Fujifilm—likewise cite sharp spikes in the cost of aluminum, silver, and packaging materials as the cause of their price increases.
Ink companies are not slow to take action either. EFI is hiking prices for its inkjet inks and supplies in Europe. Flint, Huber, and Sun Chemical are doing the same for their inks, coatings, and adhesives for their North American market. Shortages of raw materials to make the inks—pigments, resins, vegetable oils, and petrochemicals, for instance—have exerted pressure on their manufacturing overheads.
Paper companies have also had their turn: Sappi Europe is increasing the price of its coated and uncoated woodfree grades by up to 10% and its packaging and specialty products by about 11%. Mitsubishi HiTec Paper Europe is applying a 5% increase to all of its coated inkjet papers.
In China, major paper companies, such as Shandong Chenming Paper and Shandong Sun Paper, are raking in profits, but they had to suspend paper production for printing and writing grades for short periods early this year due to the high cost of raw materials. Prices for wood pulp have risen about 25% in 2021, while fuel and energy costs are escalating.
After the Chinese Ministry of Ecology and Environment banned the import of waste paper in January, the short supply of raw materials for papermaking became even more acute. Beijing’s latest plastic restriction order, in turn, sends consumers and companies rushing to switch to paper packaging, thereby increasing pressure on its already stressed paper-based food packaging and packing bags supply. Paper prices have been rising since mid-2020, and there is no sign of a downward trend as yet.
So falling supply meets rising demand equals price increases. Add unpredictable supply-chain disruptions in different spots of the globe, due to the pandemic and sporadic outbreaks, and the situation worsens for players in the print manufacturing industry.