Paper scarcity, huge demand keep notebooks out of reach for students

According to V Ganesh Kumar, former president, Sivakasi Master Printers Association, the availability of paper, the basic raw material for notebook production, became scarce and expensive, leading to a drastic decline in production that went down by 50 per cent.
Manufactured notebooks stocked in a unit at Sivakasi in Virudhunagar district
Manufactured notebooks stocked in a unit at Sivakasi in Virudhunagar district

MADURAI: Even a month after reopening of schools, several students are not in receipt of notebooks to pursue their education. Many parents feel that their children were provided with textbooks in schools, but not enough notebooks.

According to V Ganesh Kumar, former president, Sivakasi Master Printers Association, the availability of paper, the basic raw material for notebook production, became scarce and expensive, leading to a drastic decline in production that went down by 50 per cent.

Now, a kilogram of A grade paper is priced ranging from Rs 95 to Rs 105 against the average price of Rs 50 and the price of other raw materials, including ink, chemicals and plate has also shot up. The uptrend in the price of raw material seems to continue for another five or six months. Since, textbooks were issued by the government there were no delay, but the problem is concerned with notebooks, for which the supply tends to be erratic.

Adding to the woes, paper mills have started focusing on exports, since the notebook manufacturing industry is reeling from uncertainty. To safeguard the industry and overcome production issues, the manufacturers have sought the government to ensure supply of 50 per cent of the capacity of every paper mill to domestic units. To raise tree plantations for paper production, he opined that the government could allocate barren lands, Ganesh Kumar told DT Next on Sunday.

D Anandarajan, a notebook manufacturer in Sivakasi, said since the demand for papers in the domestic market has shrunk, paper mills relied much on the international market. “Against a normal price of one quire notebook at Rs 27, the same product is available at Rs 42 now in the market. Normally, during the days of June, July and till September, the demand for notebooks will drop, but it seems contrary this year. Two years ago, during COVID outbreak, stocks of notebooks piled up and there is nobody to buy them, but now when there is no stock, its demand peaked,” he said.

As for R Sundar, former president, Paper Merchants Association, Sivakasi, production decline is rooted in supply and demand, apart from the rising raw material cost. Since all schools reopened in full swing at the same time, the demand for notebooks has dramatically escalated as many placed bulk orders.

As the supply has not kept pace with demand, the manufacturers could hardly meet on the rising demand, instantly. There are about eight paper mills in the state and once production is in full swing from all to meet the needs of schools, problems of scarcity will tend to disappear. Moreover, the scarce availability of raw material prompted the stakeholders to rely on imports, which attracts customs duty of 2.5 per cent, he said.

K Saravanan, an educationist in Madurai, said even students in government schools are yet to receive their notebooks. As of now, students have been engaged by teachers in classrooms with ‘book back exercises.’ However, written communication, which solely requires notebooks, is essential for any student to acknowledge that they have learnt the lessons, he said.

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