The consumption of paper and board decreased by 4%-5% compared to 2011, according to preliminary statistics from the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI).
The main issues to come out of the statistics were lightweighting trends and the tough financial economic environment.
Packaging and tissue grades showed growth in production when compared to the previous year but output of graphic grades continued to decline for the eighth consecutive year.
The production of packaging grades is estimated to have increased by around 1% when compared with 2011 and case materials recorded an increase in production of between 1% and 1.5%.
The output of carton board has been relatively stable with 0.3% growth while the production of wrapping grades increased by over 3%.
CEPI said that because only tonnage variations are being measured it should be noted that volumes are affected by the continuing trend towards lightweighting.
Indications are that paper and board production by CEPI member countries fell by in the region of 1.7% in 2012.
It is estimated that CEPI member countries produced around 92m tonnes of paper and board in 2012, resulting from adjustments in production capacities with closures amounting to 2m tonnes and new capacities or upgrading of existing facilities accounting for close to 1m tonne.
CEPI said this contrasts with the peak total paper and board production of 102m tonnes in 2007.
The share of packaging grades has been superior to graphic grades in 2012 for the first time, accounting respectively for 44.5% and 43.4% of the total paper and board production.
Production of all other grades of paper and board – mainly for industrial and special purposes - decreased by between 0.5% and 1%.
It is estimated that consumption of paper for recycling by CEPI members, which includes 18 countries, fell by between 1% and 1.5%.
Based on the cumulative data up to the end of Q3 2012 it is expected that total paper and board deliveries will have fallen by over 2% when compared to 2011.
Exports had risen by over 4% by the end of September with the main markets being other European countries, which took about 35% (37% in 2011), with deliveries to Asian countries taking around 28% (28% in 2011) and 10% being exported to North America (10% also in 2011).
CEPI said by the end of September 2012, deliveries of packaging grades had fallen by just over 1%.
Annual statistics for the industry in 2012 will be published in June 2013.