Year of progress to be followed by year of cautious optimism

21 December 2015

So, we have come to the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016, in the same issue of WBPI! The year 2015 was obviously over-shadowed by the ongoing economic problems of the Eurozone. Meanwhile, the United States continued its slow climb out of recession; and a resultant increase in the activity of the housing market. Unfortunately, this rebound was not as strong, or as smooth, as many predicted but at least it has continued to move in the right direction.

Russia has been the source of much new capacity in MDF and particleboard in 2015 and in previous years of course, but sanctions against the country, and the problems of its currency, have cast doubts over the future, or at least the timing, of these investments.

There is an interesting 'link' between the first issue of 2015 (February/March) and this, the last issue of 2015, and it comes from North America.

In the February/March 2015 issue, we reported the merger between Norbord and Ainsworth in North America, creating one of the largest-capacity OSB producers globally. In this issue, December 2015/January 2016, we can report another very significant North American merger: that of Weyerhaeuser and Plum Creek . This, say the merger partners, will result in the creation of "...the world's premier timber, land and forest products company, with more than 13 million acres of the most productive and diverse timberland in the US".

Looking back through the issues of 2015, in April/May we carried a lead news story about sub-standard Chinese plywood being imported into the UK, with a high proportion of importers facing sanctions under the EU Timber Regulations (EUTR). I think we can be sure that UK importers are not the only ones handling Chinese plywood which doesn't meet the required EU standards and this story is only one in a long chain of reports of such plywood finding markets fraudulently. This is not only illegal, but threatens the credibility of our whole industry.

In the June/July issue, we reported that European plywood manufacturers had joined the European Panel Federation (EPF), making the federation representative of all forms of panel product for the first time. We also reported the EPF's strong commitment to make "at least E1" the compulsory standard for the production, distribution and import of all wood based panels. Dr Poalo Fantoni, the new chairman of the EPF, has made this goal a strong part of his platform for his tenancy of the chair.

The August/September issue carried our Focus on Italy, which showed positive trends for the country's many machinery makers which are dedicated to the panel industry.

The lead story in the October/November issue of WBPI was the news that Arauco had invested US$325m in the largest continuous particleboard press in North America, with its new mill in Grayling, Michigan, US. Anticipated capacity, in 2018, is 750,000m3 per year.

Sadly for me, 2016 is my final year as editor of WBPI; the last issue for which I will be wholly responsible will be the June/July one, since I will be officially retiring in early July.

It just remains for me to thank our advertisers and readers for your loyalty and encouragement in 2015; and to wish you all a Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Michael I Botting