Paper-thin supply sparks school books fear

Parents shopping for back-to-school stationery could face price hikes and empty shelves, as logistics and materials pressures cause suppliers to ration goods.

The Australian Lottery and Newsagents Association has called on the federal government to ease white paper import duties, after timber shortages blocked production at Australia's last white paper mill in Victoria.

"There's some rationing sort of going on around the amount that we can order but we've still got product on shelves," association chief executive Ben Kearney told AAP.

"Down the line we might start to see that situation where there's a lack of availability."

Mr Kearney said newsagents and other retailers were looking at a more than 50 per cent increase in paper costs over a matter of months.

White paper production at Opal Australian Paper's Maryvale mill was impacted in late December due to timber shortages after state-owned supplier VicForests was ordered to scale back harvesting in parts of Victoria.

The Victorian Supreme Court found VicForests failed to adequately survey logging coupes for two protected possum species.

VicForests is appealing against the decision, with a hearing in the Court of Appeal on March 23.

Office product companies have called for an end to white paper import tariffs as shortages push them towards foreign paper.

"The tariffs were there to stop injury to the Australian manufacturing market, but there is no Australian manufacturing market at the moment," Office Brands chief executive Adam Joy told AAP.

The association and Office Brands said they supported workers at Maryvale mill and hoped the supply disruption would be resolved as quickly as possible.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Australia's import duties were low at 5 per cent.

"And under Australia's existing network of free trade agreements, FTA partners have duty-free access into Australia, including major countries supplying paper into Australia, such as China and Indonesia," it said in a statement.

The Department of Industry, Science and Resources, which handles anti-dumping and countervailing duties, acknowledged the Australian Lottery and Newsagents Association's concerns about the supply of white copy paper.

"We encourage all purchasers to continue to engage with Opal Australian Paper in the hope that any supply disruption can be minimised or avoided," a department spokesman said.

"The rules governing anti-dumping measures are complicated and require inquiries to be undertaken by the independent Anti-Dumping Commissioner before changes to existing duties can be made."

The CFMEU is calling for an audit on the amount of white paper available in the country and wants the Victorian and federal governments to intervene to reinstate production at Maryvale.

The manufacturing union flagged a potential shortfall in paper products including doctor scripts, exercise books and government services documentation.

"We don't have a sense of how much white paper is actually available in the country," secretary of the Pulp and Paper Workers District, Denise Campbell-Burns, told AAP.

The disruption at Opal has led to 49 production workers being stood down, but their pay will be guaranteed by the Victorian government until mid-February.

Opal, owned by Japan's Nippon Paper Group, said no decision on further stand-downs had been made, but it was considering "scaling down" white paper manufacturing.

On Wednesday, Victorian Environment Minister Ingrid Stitt said talks were continuing between the government and Opal.