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Paper production in Iran has come to a complete stop until further notice, the chairman of the Paper and Cardboard Producers Union of Iran announced April 24.

Abolfazl Roghani Golpayegani, who is also managing director of Mazandaran Wood and Paper Industries (MWPI), says the reason for the industry-wide production stoppage is the massive supply of cheap imported paper and cardboard on the Iranian market, mostly from China, and the fact that the government no longer supports local producers.

In the past, MWPI has boasted of being “proud of its position as the largest integrated pulp and paper manufacturer in the Middle East,” but now the paper mill is silent.

According Golpayegani, “The total demand on the local market during the last Iranian calendar year (ending March 20, 2018) was supplied by imported paper and cardboard, and the national producers were forced to either store their products or turn them into pulp.”

Referring to the three main domestic manufacturers, MWPI, Tabriz Kaghaz (Tabriz Paper), and Pars Paper Industrial Group, Golpayegani noted, “None of these three factories that used to manufacture writing and printing paper had a significant output last year.”

President Rouhani’s administration announced April 18 that it had added paper to the list of “principal commodities,” along with medicines and foodstuff. This decision means imported paper will now benefit from government subsidies.

Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Abbas Salehi tweeted after the announcement, “This is good news for publishers, writers, and the press. From now on, paper is officially listed as a principal commodity, which shows the government believes cultural needs are as important as drugs and foodstuff.”

“Some government entities, including the Education Ministry and the Ministry of Culture & Islamic Guidance, are reluctant to buy locally produced paper and prefer the imported products,” claims Golpayegani. Since it is much cheaper, imported paper is less of a drain on government coffers.

Golpayegani says if supported by the government, domestic producers have the capacity to provide for 60 percent of the paper needed for printing newspapers and 40 percent of the nation’s writing paper.

Meanwhile, state-run Mehr News Agency (MNA) says cheaper Chinese paper falsely labeled as locally produced has appeared at markets in recent years, enraging Iran’s paper manufacturers.

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