The Middle East as a whole is enjoying a favourable trend in terms of growing pulp demand, with the leading nations being UAE, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia – most prominently UAE, where economic growth is strong and the need for consumer goods is in nearconstant expansion.
During the past decade, many paper machines have arrived in these markets, particularly to satisfy consumer demand for tissue paper. These machines, as always, represent large- scale investments, and to enable their use in production of high-quality tissue, their owners also require high-quality fibre. This is where Metsä Fibre fits in, as a supplier of softwood fibre in particular.
Kustaa Laine, Metsä Fibre’s Sales Director in the region, sees this promising growth as just the beginning. “Demand for high-quality softwood pulp has been increasing in these markets during recent years, and we predict that this growth will also continue in the future.”
As in certain other growth markets around the world, the standard of living is gradually increasing in these territories, with more and more consumers joining the rapidly expanding middle class. “We have observed that when countries are undergoing social development of this kind, demand for high-quality paper will grow immediately,” Laine continues. “As a matter of fact, the demand tends to grow faster than certain other key metrics – GDP, for example – and this is exactly what we see in the Gulf region.”
FACIAL TISSUE THE FLAGSHIP PULP PRODUCT
of Ekman Group, Metsä Fibre’s partner in the Middle East points out what makes this market so distinct. “There’s an interesting thing concerning these markets – and North Africa also – which is the popularity of facial tissue. This has always been a major product, as it’s ubiquitous in the Gulf countries. Western visitors might notice that when travelling in taxis, for example, there is always a box of tissue paper handy. It’s a convenience which has come to be looked at as a necessity.”
With tissue paper firmly anchored in consumer expectations, the trend has indeed been towards improvement in quality on the part of the paper producers. This typically means more fresh fibres are used to create tissue, and less recycled fibres. In the self-perpetuating cycle we have become accustomed to in Western markets, this higher quality level becomes the “new normal” and consumer expectations increase yet again. This need for sustainably produced fresh-fibre pulps, drawing upon northern wood from sustainably managed forests, has led Metsä Fibre to label the Gulf states as key markets for growth, and the company looks forward to sustaining the needs of its paper producers and fuelling demand on the part of consumers.
Factoring in the additional capacity offered by Metsä Fibre’s forthcoming Äänekoski bioproduct mill, and the range of value-added services the company is able to offer its customers, the future of pulp in the Gulf states certainly looks to be a bright one.