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Paper Market Update | June 2024

Billerud Cancels Mill Conversion, UPM Announces Closures

Billerud has canceled its plan to convert the Escanaba, Michigan mill to produce carton board after feasibility studies revealed lower-than-expected  returns. Originally intended to be a 600,000-ton-per-year folding boxboard (FBB) machine, the project has been shelved. Instead, Billerud will focus on gradually shifting its North American product mix towards packaging materials, with a moderate investment strategy, while continuing graphic paper production, especially coated freesheet paper.

Simultaneously, UPM Communication Papers plans to permanently close its Hürth newsprint mill and shut down one fine paper machine (PM 3) at its Nordland Paper facility in Dörpen, Germany. These closures would reduce UPM's annual capacity by 330,000 tonnes of newsprint and 280,000 tonnes of uncoated fine paper. UPM cites the need to proactively align with customer demand and ensure competitiveness as reasons for these closures. Both announcements reflect a strategic shift within the industry as companies 
adapt to changing market conditions and consumer preferences.

Kruger Workers Strike Amid Labor Dispute

Labor tensions have escalated in Trois-Rivières, Canada, as 298 workers at  Kruger’s Trois-Rivières S.E.C. plant went on strike on May 30th. The strike, announced by Unifor, a major Canadian union, follows the overwhelming rejection of a contract offer by Kruger management. Months of unsuccessful negotiations on monetary issues led the union members to vote for a strike, aiming to secure a fair collective agreement that addresses their concerns about wages and working conditions.

Norske Skog to Enter Pulp Market, Halts Rebuild of PM6 at Saugbrugs

Norske Skog has announced plans to enter the bleached chemi-thermomechanical pulp (BCTMP) market with a new production line at its Saugbrugs mill in Halden, Norway. This decision follows significant damage 
to Paper Machine #6 (PM6) due to a rockslide in April 2023. Instead of rebuilding or restarting PM6, which was their primary supercalendered paper machine, the company will operate two smaller machines for 
supercalendered grades, better matching current demand. The new BCTMP line will utilize existing capacity and infrastructure, significantly reducing investment costs and is expected to produce approximately 300,000 tons annually. The production line is set to begin in 2027, with full utilization by mid-2028.

UPM Reaches Labor Agreement with Finnish Paper Workers' Union

In a significant positive development for the Finnish paper industry, UPM Pulp, UPM Communication Papers, and the Finnish Paper Workers' Union have successfully reached a collective labor agreement. The agreement, confirmed on June 5th by the Board of the Paper Workers’ Union, covers UPM's Finnish pulp and printing paper mills, Specialty Papers, Raflatac, and Biofuels sectors. This new agreement, effective immediately, will span two years with wage increases set to take effect from July 1, 2024. Both UPM and the Union expressed satisfaction with the outcome, praising the constructive negotiation process. This successful resolution marks an important step forward in labor relations within the industry and demonstrates a collaborative effort to ensure stability and progress.


Demand and Operating Rate Forecasts (RISI)



U.S. Economy and Paper End-Use Indicators



N.A. Coated Paper Demand and Shipments   |   N.A. Coated Paper Operating Rates