While local paper and pulp producer Sappi remains a committed partner to South Africa’s paper and board markets, the company has shifted its focus from manufacturing graphic papers to packaging papers, owing to declining local demand for graphic papers and a strong increase in demand for packaging papers.
Currently, the company still supplies newsprint and office paper to the local and regional markets.
Sappi manufactures packaging paper, including fluting and liner containerboard, which is used to make boxes, typically for agricultural and industrial applications.
The company has a strong focus on the citrus fruit market and, because the citrus sector is a market segment with seasonal demand, Sappi manufactures its fluting and liner containerboards to correspond with harvesting times, enabling citrus farmers to have constant supply of packaging material to safely transport their produce to markets locally and globally.
Sappi tells Engineering News that the current exchange rate provides increased opportunities to export locally produced fruit, which has further supplemented demand for Sappi’s containerboard products.
Responding to customer and market demands, the company continues to push for innovation and develop better-quality products at more affordable prices. This includes Sappi’s Ultraflute and Enstra lightweight products, which offer improved yield without compromising product strength. This is important as the cold supply chain places rigorous demands on product strength and performance under relative and high humidity.
The company’s packaging portfolio is further strengthened by the availability of specialty packaging products, which are imported from Sappi’s Alfeld mill in Germany. Alfeld manufactures paper used for packaging in the pharmaceuticals, dairy and confectionary industries, as well as luxury packaging for cosmetics and alcoholic beverages. The flexible packaging made at Alfeld is commonly used for applications such as package soup sachets and yoghurt bandyrolls.
For luxury packaging and other graphic applications Algro is a popular range of products with many variants suitable for a wide range of printing and packaging requirements, which rely on vivid colour reproduction and strong legibility.
Sappi’s Brown Carouselling Project
As part of Sappi’s ongoing efforts to improve the profitability of its local paper manufacturing business, the company embarked on a carouselling project last year. The shift was brought about by the declining profitability in the graphic papers market segment and to improve its competitiveness in the growing packaging papers market. Carouselling refers to shifting production at operations in order to improve efficiencies and contributions.
The carouselling project started with significant investment in four of Sappi’s mills, namely Stanger, Tugela, Enstra and Ngodwana, culminating in the expansion of the company’s pulping and fibre production capacity, as well as substantially improving operating efficiencies across its production processes, particularly those employing paper machines and finishing equipment.
To further improve operational efficiency, Sappi has decommissioned certain equipment units, such as the coating equipment at Stanger mill.
Sappi’s carouselling project will result in the production of more lightweight recycled papers at the Enstra mill, in Gauteng, more virgin containerboard at Ngodwana, in Mpumalanga, and Tugela in KwaZulu-Natal, and less uncoated papers at Enstra while ceasing coated paper production at Stanger, in KwaZulu-Natal.
The uncoated paper production will be moved from Enstra to Stanger to replace the lost coated paper production, which will be replaced, in turn, by increased imports from Sappi’s European mills.