Indian imports of newsprint have fallen by more than 55% in the past five years, Labor Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur told the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
From 13,84,056 kg in the 2017-2018 financial year, imports fell to 5,97,766 in 2021-22, the minister said in a written response to an unstarred question from YSRCP chief whip Margani Bharat .
The opposition MP had also asked for details of national newsprint production and local demand from the newspaper industry, but the minister said they were not keeping this data. He cited the Ministry of Commerce’s import figures.
The biggest drop came in the post-pandemic years. From 12,96,354 kg in 2019-20, imports decreased to 6,48,620 in 2020-21 and 5,97,766 in 2021-22.
Thakur also said that customs duties on the import of newsprint had been reduced from 10% to 5% following requests from industry representatives in 2020.
Meanwhile, in another unstarred question, Trinamool Congresswoman Mimi Chakraborty asked if the allocation of newspaper ads had been reduced by more than 60% in the past two fiscal years and if that also affected commercial charges. She also asked whether the tax revenue had fallen to Rs 1,685.02 crore from Rs 1,788.52 crore in 2020-21.
Thakur replied that the revenue is related to royalties paid by “TV channels, DTH operators, private FM channels which have experienced a downturn over the past two years due to Covid-19 and other factors”.
In April, BJP MP Sushil Kumar Modi called on the central government to intervene and revive the newspaper industry by removing import duties on newsprint, and also introducing a program to encourage the national production.
Newslaundry earlier how the Indian newspaper industry was facing a crisis due to a shortage of newsprint, triggered by global conditions and the lack of adequate domestic manufacturing.