The Coronavirus and the European Pulp and Paper Industry


Berry Wiersum and Harald Ganster (seated on dais) attended the Lisbon event in person; Ksenia Sosnina and Lennart Eberleh, who joined via video, can be seen on the screen behind the moderator.

Fastmarkets RISI held its European conference in Lisbon, Portugal, this year at the same time as the coronavirus pandemic began to spread quickly across the world. In a CEO panel held at the event, European pulp and paper industry leaders were asked about how they are dealing with the crisis at their companies and mills.

Their comments were recorded at the panel session, which took place on Tuesday, March 10. Due to the pandemic, Fastmarkets RISI organized the conference so that both speakers and delegates could attend either in person or via video link.

Ksenia Sosnina, CEO, JSC Ilim Group
and Fastmarkets RISI’s 2020 European CEO of the Year

“The fundamentals remain the same at Ilim Group, and our five-year plan remains intact, although we are moving tactically to adjust as the situation develops.

“We have five expansion plans ongoing at the group (across Russia), with one large project in Siberia and four debottlenecking activities which are at various stages. They are all continuing for the present.

“In terms of our supply to China and the logistics, this really depends on how quickly the nation recovers. The Chinese are very good at recovering; we saw how well they tackled the virus and hopefully they will be as quick on getting back to normal when it comes to logistics. There have been a lot of bottlenecks and transport rotation issues, with wagons and trucks stuck at the border.”

Harald Ganster
Managing Director, Hamburger Containerboard

“Our Schwarze Pumpe project at Spremberg (Northern Germany) is ongoing, with first paper expected in August this year; we have no plans to change that start-up date as yet. We have another project running in Turkey where we are making sure that the expansion projects and operational activities are kept completely separate to make sure that production will not be affected.

“We are putting a huge focus on hygiene at our mills, as the last thing we need is a shift going down due to the virus.”

Berry Wiersum
CEO, Sappi Europe

“We have been very adventurous over the last few years and I am pleased to say that all of our capacity expansions and rebuilds have been completed already. We have two mills in Italy in the area that has been badly affected, but I have to say there is no panic, and no cases of the virus at the mills as of yet.

“We have taken the precaution of splitting our management at the mills in affected areas into two teams, one working at home and the other at the mill, to make sure that we can continue production should we be affected. There is a great need for a balanced approach at the moment, and we continue to supply our customers through difficult times. We must not indulge in panic.”

Lennart Eberleh
CEO, Rottneros (Sweden)

“We went through our major investment from 2015 to 2018 and we have been concentrating very much on minor debottlenecking and maintenance. It is my feeling that the pulp market won’t take too much of a hit due to the virus.

“At the moment all is well at our production sites, but if some of our shifts get impacted, we will have to look again. At the moment we are working hard to keep the virus out of our mill gates.” 

About Leslee Masters