No doubt they are hoping they will see similarly promising signs of rebirth in the panel industry’s markets, particularly in northern Europe, though that seems about as hard to predict as the weather these days. Unfortunately, it would be a brave, or foolish, forecaster who predicted any kind of booming market this year as the European economy remains stuck in its slumbers.
North America, on the other hand, has had a very good couple of years – at least in structural panel markets – and there is more OSB capacity planned for the immediate future. However, there are signs that sales of plywood and OSB in North America may slow this year if housing starts decrease as predicted.
In terms of markets for MDF, neither Europe nor the US has seen much to celebrate in recent years and our MDF survey,
Part 1, Europe and North America, reflects this fact in very small production volume growth (3.5%) between end-2004 and end-2005 and few significant expansion plans for 2006. Interestingly, though, North America showed the more positive growth in MDF, rather than Europe, for a change.
On a more positive note, with so little expansion activity going on in Europe or North America, capacity utilisation for the existing mills is improving and that should provide concrete opportunities for price increases to offset at least some of the rising costs which the manufacturers are facing, particularly for energy. Another interesting point raised in the European survey is the fact that Turkey is on track to become the second largest MDF volume producer after Germany.
John Wadsworth also brings together the mill ownership changes in both regions, which are still ongoing, as you will see from this issue’s news pages. You can read John’s findings in full on pages 11-17 of this issue.
South America is showing some interesting activity, with companies planning capacity expansions, as Richard Higgs reports.
Meanwhile, in part 1 of our Focus on China, we visit three recently built mills, two of which have brand new continuous
particleboard lines, rather than the MDF which has featured so far.
May the sun brighten your days, whether you are approaching your summer, or your winter.