“We may invest in another paper mill, but it may not be tissue paper. It may be any other grade of paper which would be in demand in future.”
In an exclusive Interview with Paper Mart, Mr. Aejaz Ahmed Munshi, General Manager, Star Paper Mill Paper Industry LLC talks about his Company, its manufacturing capabilities, product portfolio, market presence, latest developments, growth strategies and future plans.
Paper Mart: Could you please give us a glimpse into the business story of Star Paper Mill?
Aejaz Ahmed Munshi: Star Paper Mill is located at the growing Industrial City of Abu Dhabi (ICAD), United Arab Emirates. It is spread in an area of 27000 sqm. The company’s license and work started sometime back but the actual production started in May 2019.
“The company is currently producing around 3000 tonnes per month of hygienic tissue paper jumbo rolls made from 100% virgin pulp.“
We are involved in the manufacturing of a wide range of white and pastel shades of hygienic tissue paper in various grades ranging from the most delicate 12.5 GSM to most durable 42 GSM. The company is currently producing around 3000 tonnes per month of hygienic tissue paper jumbo rolls made from 100% virgin pulp. It specializes in manufacturing tissue papers to multiple specifications meeting GCC, European and other international standards requirements.
PM: Please share details about the infrastructure and manufacturing capabilities of Star Paper Mill?
AAM: The paper machine has been sourced from an Italian company — Recard S.p.A. The deckle size of the machine is 3600mm. It is a virgin tissue line and is equipped with 2 sets of rewinders with calendaring rolls, enabling us to handle small widths, single ply and up to 4 ply tissue reels. It is a crescent former tissue machine with the latest flexi-nip shoe press technology by Voith. The inclusion of shoe press has helped us in achieving higher bulk and more softness in the paper. The annual production capacity is 36,000 TPA approximately.
PM: Could you shed light on the product portfolio offered by your company and raw material procurement & management?
AAM: Star Paper Mill specializes in the production of facial tissue, toilet tissue, napkin tissue, kitchen towels, maxi rolls, center-feed rolls, auto-cut rolls, industrial rolls and very high wet strength towel in 1, 2, 3 & 4 ply.
Most of the raw materials we use is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified pulp. The hardwood pulp that we use is sourced majorly from Brazil, Portugal, Poland and France. The softwood pulp is procured from Canada, USA, Finland and Sweden.
As a socially responsible organization — we ensure appropriate usage of water in our manufacturing processes. In addition to the recycling the water we use, Star Paper Mill ensure to produce hygienic and safe tissues as top priority. This is further determined to the numerous certifications we have to our credit — ISO 9001:2015, FSC, HACCP and food contract certificates. The manufactured jumbo reels are examined in our quality control lab conducting testing procedures setup by international governing bodies like ASTM, TAPPI, SCAM to make sure the tissues meet the prescribed specifications of tensile strength, brightness, etc.
PM: Could you please take us through the market presence of the Company? Kindly delineate on your plans with respect to furthering Star Paper Mill’s reach to newer geographies, i.e. to establish presence in different countries — specifically India?
AAM: Star Paper Mill has its clientele in UAE, other Middle East Countries (Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain etc.), some parts of South & East Africa, and UK.
“Star Paper Mill is constantly working on the development of new products for different markets. There are certain markets which require particular products — and we ensure to fulfill those demands.”
Talking about the market presence in India — unfortunately there is no free trade agreement between India and UAE… so when we supply materials to India, our customers are charged full custom duty. The import customs is quite high in India for tissue. So, as of now there are no plans to enter the Indian market.
PM: Please share your views on the tissue paper industry and the various trends which are driving the growth of the industry. How do you view the sector is positioned with respect to innovations and growth?
AAM: The two segments that have seen surge in the last one year are hygiene and packaging. Amidst all the grades of the papers — tissue paper is a growing market when compared with all the other paper grades. The use of tissue is increasing every day. People have become more hygiene conscious, especially after Covid-19. Earlier, people used cloth napkins in restaurants and towels in washrooms, but keeping in mind the hygiene and safety, the cloth napkins & towels are now replaced by tissues. So, we are confident that there will be further growth in the tissue papers.
PM: How do you think the tissue paper industry has performed so far and how will it perform in the coming years? What is the degree of competition in the global tissue paper industry?
AAM: In UAE, we are particularly facing challenges fro m the Indian paper mills because the two main players — Orient Paper Mills and Century Pulp & Paper have their own local production of pulp. They use wood to manufacture pulp which is locally available, so the cost of production for them is low compared to paper mills that import raw material. As and when they feel that the local demand is less, the Indian paper mills supply their products to UAE at low prices. Recently, we have seen prices going down by USD 300 per tonne, which is around 35% less price the Indian paper manufacturers offered to the UAE markets. Our selling price in UAE for the last month was USD 1400 per tonne, and at the same time the Indian paper mills have sold for USD 1050 per tonne. In international terminology, this is considered dumping. The Indian paper mills are dumping a lot in the Middle East — as they are not highly affected by the global pulp pricing structure. However, we also had discussion on these issues with the Indian paper industry but nothing much has come out of it. Moreover, the Government in UAE has an open policy for imports without restrictions and does not levy any anti-dumping duty.
PM: Are there any new developments at the Company that you wish to talk about?
AAM: Star Paper Mill is constantly working on the development of new products for different markets. There are certain markets which require particular products — and we ensure to fulfill those demands. Our product development varies from customer to customer. For example, the 12.5 GSM facial tissues was not much in demand in the Middle East — but when we started our operations, we began manufacturing low GSM tissue. Generally, the low GSM is 14 GSM here in UAE. We were able to give the properties of 14 GSM in 12.5 GSM tissues and gave it more strong yet delicate finishing. This has been a very successful product for us in UAE.
“We are developing a special kind of napkin tissues where converters can do multicolor printing on them.“
Likewise, we are developing a special kind of napkin tissues where converters can do multicolor printing on them. We are also manufacturing high wet strength towel tissue and some other grades are being developed on continuous basis.
PM: Do you have any plans for capacity expansion? What are the future plans of Star Paper Mill going forward? What are your growth strategies for the coming years?
AAM: Not immediately, but in near future we will study the market and see what kind of papers are in demand, and accordingly take the decision. Moreover, any expansion in the tissue paper segment in the Middle East is currently not a wise step because there is already an over-capacity of tissue paper in the region.
We may invest in another paper mill, but it may not be tissue paper. It may be any other grade of paper which would be in demand in future.
PM: Is there anything else that you wish to add to the interaction?
AAM: Star Paper Mill is a very customer service-oriented company — in the sense that, apart from the standards we maintain, depending on the countries where our supplies are going, we try to meet the individual requirements of our clients as well. We carefully study those requirements, work alongside our clients and develop each product which is individually suited to our customers. We focus a lot on customer service, timely deliver and quality adherence — all this together give us an edge over our competitors.