Dimapur | March 30
Newspapers in India, particularly in Nagaland, reeling from the devastating negative shock of COVID-19 over the past two years, are facing another crisis – escalating costs due to the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war.
The situation is particularly dire for Nagaland’s print media, the state’s only local industry generating substantial direct employment for working journalists as well as other ancillary jobs.
Unlike the national scenario where newspapers are mostly owned by corporations and large corporations, newspapers in Nagaland are proprietary which makes access to capital more difficult.
“The sudden increase in the prices of raw materials such as newsprint, ink and chemicals has impacted the newspaper industry worldwide and Nagaland is no exception, where newspapers have struggled after the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns,” said Dilip Sharma, the editor-in-chief of Dimapur Nagaland page.
“You can see the impact in Sri Lanka, where his popular newspaper ‘The Island‘ and ‘Divayina‘ have already suspended their print edition due to the unavailability of newsprint indicating the economic crisis the industry is facing,” he said, noting that the ongoing war is responsible for the economic crisis in different parts of the world.
The daily increase in fuel prices in India will naturally have an impact on the transport sector, thereby increasing the cost of commodities. And of course the newspaper industry will also suffer, he added.
Here has The Morung Expressthe official informed that the roll of newsprint, which was previously bought at Rs 66 + GST per kg at the beginning of the year, was increased to Rs 77 + GST per kg this month, indicating an increase of more than 16%.
Moreover, a newspaper plate which previously cost around 160 rupees per plate has been increased to 200 rupees, he said.
The Indian newspaper industry, in particular, is facing tougher times than ever, an unintended consequence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has been going on for more than a month now. Indeed, India imports 45% of its news print needs from Russia, said K Temjen, editor-in-chief of Shot Yimyima daily newspaper in the Ao language.
Not just for newsprint, but prices have skyrocketed for all print-related materials, he said.
An executive from another Dimapur-based English daily also informed that their purchases of newsprint have increased from Rs 64+GST to Rs 77+GST.
“I inquired with several dealers in Guwahati and the rates are more or less the same everywhere,” he added.
As a solution, he informed that talks were currently underway to pay for the newsprint in installments.
A reporter associated with an Imphal-based newspaper also informed that they are facing the same situation. “I have been informed by management that three other people have requested the purchase of our newsprint stock due to the unavailability of the product in the market,” he said.
Why are newsprint prices rising?
The price of newsprint, which was on an upward trend due to COVID-19, has been doubly affected by the current crisis.
According to the PTI news agency, the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) issued a statement to the Union Finance Minister in January stating that the cost of paper had jumped 20% in the last three months due to the imbalance between supply and demand as a result of the pandemic.
The cost was attributed to a drastic drop in supplies after the closure or conversion of 3 million tonnes of brown paper manufacturing capacity worldwide.
The INS then sought a 5% waiver of import duties to help cut costs, arguing that the industry which was facing headwinds from a slowing economy even before the pandemic, has been “ hit hard when most readers stopped buying newspapers and magazines for fear they might carry viruses,” the report said.
He further called for a fiscal stimulus package for the industry or an increase in government advertising tariffs by 50% while further calling for the extension of the validity of RNI (Registrar of Newspapers for India) movement certificates up to as of March 31, 2022.
However, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has put direct pressure on the supply of newsprint, as well as collateral effects such as rising oil prices, volatile foreign exchange markets and other issues related to economic sanctions against Russia.
Indian newsprint imports
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had many unintended consequences. One of the least known is imported newsprint, India Time (ToI) announced March 18.
Newsprint has “almost disappeared from the market, leaving it hard to source”, as Russia accounts for almost 45% of India’s newsprint imports.
Another fallout is the galloping inflation of (natural gas, coal) which constitutes almost 30% of the cost of producing newsprint in paper mills, he added.
A look at the Commodity Trade Monitoring Dashboard maintained by the Union Ministry of Commerce and India confirmed the enormity of reliance on Russia.
According to the dashboard, in the fiscal year 2021-22 (April to January), India imported $290 million worth of newsprint; of which $110.71 million or 38.17% of total imports came from Russia.
Canada was second with $96.33 million or 33.21%. Together, the two countries accounted for more than 71% of total imports.
Again in 2021-2022, India imported $294 million worth of newsprint, of which $110.89 million came from Russia, accounting for 37.71% of the total import. (See table)
According to HAVEthe strike by Canadian truckers against the country’s vaccine mandate in February also wreaked havoc on crucial supply chains.
Newsprint typically accounts for around 40-50% of the cost of producing a newspaper. Other items such as inks, aluminum plates for printing and transport costs are also becoming more expensive due to the global surge in raw material prices, putting further pressure on newspaper costs, a he declared.
For Nagaland newspapers, with limited commercial activities, the impact would be more severe.
“Unlike other newspapers in other states, as Nagaland has no commercial activities, newspapers cannot rely on commercial advertisements from the public and private sectors,” Shot YimyimTemjen said.
“The worst thing is that newspaper publishers cannot just increase the cost of newspapers due to the bad economic situation in the state, because many families barely subscribe to a daily newspaper due to economic constraints. “, he added.
However, given the dire situation, most newspapers in Nagaland may be forced to raise their cover prices, which would only have a marginal impact. If the Russian-Ukrainian crisis continues and the government remains indifferent to the crisis facing local newspapers, it could force them to close or go into hiding.