Paper shortage impacting local newspapers

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by Brandon Mayer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A supply chain issue has been making its impact on businesses which use paper products, and the problem has been felt locally as well. Drew McLaren, who is the President of McLaren Press Graphics Limited, spoke with the Times about what is driving the paper shortage. He pointed out that wood pulp is in short supply due to increased demand across many different industries. In particular, there is a move away from the use of plastic when it comes to products such as disposable drinking straws used in the restaurant industry, and plastic bags in retail stores. As these plastic products get phased out and replaced with paper alternatives, the demand for wood pulp increases drastically.

Another increase in demand that has been driven, at least in part, by changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, is the demand for cardboard boxes, as fewer people are picking up items in stores, and many are instead ordering online from retailers such as Amazon. “Everything comes in a box, right?” Drew told the Times.

The wood pulp shortage does not have a clear end in sight. Drew has heard that paper suppliers are expecting the shortages to continue well into 2022, meaning that many businesses are going to have to get used to a new reality. He gave the example that his business purchased about 38 truckloads of newsprint from a particular supplier last year, but has been put on a ration of just one truckload per month – or 12 truckloads per year – by the same supplier for this year. “We’ve been scrambling, trying to find other mills that are even entertaining taking on additional tonnage, just to get to where we were on last year’s levels,” said Drew. He revealed that the problem is so widespread that, late last year, he heard that the reason an issue of the Toronto Sun didn’t get printed was because there simply wasn’t enough newsprint.

The impacts of the paper shortage will not only be felt by businesses. Drew’s company was forced to pass along two price increases to customers because of the supply issues – there was an increase in printing costs in November, and another increase is anticipated in February. One such customer is the North Grenville Times, which also includes the Merrickville-Wolford Times, and sister paper the North Dundas Times. Papers who charge subscription fees may have to increase their rates in the near future to cover additional costs, while those who rely on advertising revenue alone, such as the Times group, will need to recover their costs with increases in advertising rates. No business likes to pass along a price increase, but sometimes there is nothing to do about it, except to hope that the source of the problem will be resolved sooner, rather than later.  

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