The printing industry of Khulna is struggling to make a profit as the prices of ink and paper have almost tripled in the span of a year.
In addition to the increased prices, there is also a crisis of paper in the district. The clamour for paper has reached its peak as many printing press owners are not getting paper even with advance payment.
According to the print shop owners, the price hike of paper, ink and ancillary raw materials has reduced the work by about two-thirds compared to last year.
Due to high costs, clients are making fewer calendar, and diary printing orders, while some clients did not make any orders this year. Some print shops are now running for 6-7 hours per day while in previous years, they used to run for 18 hours per day.
Less work, alongside the price hike, has left organisations struggling to make a profit. If the tariff on writing and printing paper is not reduced, this problem will be prolonged, said related sources.
The print shop owners alleged that some wholesalers are controlling the paper market at will through the syndicate.
According to the Printing Industries Association of Bangladesh, Khulna sources, there are 110 printing presses under the association in the district. Besides, there are several print shops not associated with them.
About 7,000-8,000 people of Khulna are involved in the industry including the owners and employees. There are some 30 printing houses in Arafat Goli, Boro Mirzapur, Beni Babu Road and Dhormosova Road areas of Khulna.
Employees were seen spending idle time as most of the small print shops in the area are out of business. Many of the small print shops were forced to lay off employees.
The larger print shops are struggling to pay the salaries of the employees after meeting all the expenses. They are hardly making any profit after the initial costs.
Talking to printing house owners, this correspondent found that the price of 55-GSM paper used for printing was Tk 1,125-1,150 per ream (500 sheets) at the beginning of 2022. The price increased to Tk 1,800 last June.
By December 2022, the price had again increased to Tk 2,300. Currently, the price of 55-GSM paper is Tk 2,400 per ream.
The price of 80-GSM paper was Tk 2,560 last June, it increased to Tk 3,300 in December and currently, it is being sold at Tk 3,420.
Last year, the price of 170-GSM art paper for printing calendars was Tk 3,300. The same paper is currently selling for Tk 6,500-6,600.
The price of sticker paper has increased from Tk 14 to Tk 20 per piece within a span of six months.
The price of ink has increased from Tk 350 to Tk 1,200 per drum over the course of a year.
Sanu, the owner of Noor Press, located in the Bagmara area of Rupsha upazila of the district, said most of the clients of small-scale print shops are schools, colleges, and universities.
“In the months of November-December, they prepare necessary papers including books, notebooks, and educational programmes for the new academic year. But due to the price increase, the institutions are not able to plan their budget accordingly,” he said adding that this is leading the small-scale print shops to go out of business.
Mo Sakhawat Hossain, the owner of Padma Printing Press, said at this time of the year, there are more orders for calendars, diaries, ledgers and other publications. He further added that this year his shop did not get any orders for calendars, which used to be one of their major source of work.
Shahin Billah, an employee of Friends Printers in Khulna, said, “Even last year, I did not have any moment to even catch my breath during this time. This used to be our busiest season but now we are sitting in leisure.”
He added that employers are struggling to pay the worker’s salaries on time and many have already left the profession.
The General Secretary of Bangladesh Mudran Shilpa Samity, Khulna and proprietor of Desh Printing and Publication Munsi Mahbubul Alam Sohag told The Business Post, “Alongside daily commodities, the prices of ink and paper have almost tripled in the span of a year. Many organisations that survived even during the hardships of the pandemic are now on the verge of being closed down.
He also added that traders charge more for the paper and ink in stock through the syndicate as soon as the prices increase in Dhaka.
“There is no reason to charge more for products that are already in stock. The government should strengthen the market monitoring system to keep the prices under control,” he further said, adding that the government should also relax the taxes for imported goods related to the industry.