Difficult economic times but particleboard keeps on growing

3 November 2015

Unfortunately, there does not seem to be much improvement in the global economy since my last column in the August/September 2015 issue of WBPI. The economic problems facing much of Europe, South America and China have certainly not gone away and show little signs of improvement in the short-term.

Of course the countries of the European Union have had a rapidly escalating humanitarian crisis to deal with as well as refugees, and economic migrants, from the Middle East and elsewhere head for the EU's borders in ever-increasing numbers.

Meanwhile, still suffering horrendous economic woes of its own, Greece has been dragged into the humanitarian tragedy as well. That is frighteningly costly in human terms for those poor refugees, but also financially stressful for the countries trying to handle the influx.

In the Far East, China's economic slowdown is still troubling the country as it tries to come to terms with its too-rapid expansion in the last few years, combined with very significant changes in the lifestyle and culture of the country.

As Bernard Fuller, expert economist and regular columnist in WBPI, points out in another of his excellent in-depth reports on Latin America for this issue, nowhere in the world is immune to the knock-on effect of the difficult issues facing China's economy. Industrial commodity demand and prices are falling, while there is new capacity still coming on stream in China from projects which were launched in a more bullish economic climate.

In his article, Bernard points out that China, Russia, Brazil and Japan are all suffering weakness in their economies and that this situation is unlikely to improve in the near term.

The major feature in this issue of WBPI is the survey of the particleboard industry in Europe and North America. Here we see that there are two major new capacity projects in western Europe, for a change. In Italy, long-established particleboard manufacturer SAIB has a new Siempelkamp ContiRoll line under construction, while in Germany, Rauch Spanplattenwerke also has a ContiRoll line under construction at its site in Markt Bibart, replacing its old Küsters continuous line there.

In the east of Europe, given the trend in recent years, it is perhaps little surprise that Russia is committing to a considerable amount of new particleboard (as well as MDF and OSB) capacity, with nine new particleboard lines in the pipeline for start-up in the next two to three years.

In North America, perhaps more surprisingly after years of apparent stagnation when it comes to building new capacity, there are two developments. In Canada, Uniboard is to add an extra 40,000m3 of annual capacity at its mill in Val d'Or. Meanwhile, over the border in the US, Arauco North America is adding to its empire with a new 750,000m3 per year mill in Grayling, Michigan, announced as we went to press. Arauco says this will be the largest continuous particleboard press in North America - and one of the highest-capacity presses in the world. Look out for the first panels some time in 2018, says the company.

So, although the global economy is causing much concern, at least in the world of particleboard, it seems to be business more or less as usual.