This year’s European Panel Federation (EPF) annual general meeting and conference was a major case in point. Delegates were reminded how exceptional the panels markets had been in the past two years, with many panel producers breaking production and profit records in 2021.

But there was no mood for celebration, as market dynamics and the wider geopolitical landscape have brought renewed challenges to the sector.

EPF managing director Clive Pinnington said the EPF was proud of the figures for 2021 but “cautious” about the years ahead.

EPF chairman Martin Brettenthaler said the industry now faced a very complicated and challenging situation.

He referenced the challenge of raw wood and chemicals supply bringing upheaval and turmoil. He said some mills had issues with securing enough wood supply to maintain production.

The Ukraine conflict and resulting sanctions on Russia and Belarus meant there was now even more of a tendency to burn wood for energy, which has the knock-on effect of competing with the panel industry for wood feedstock.

The wood-based panels sector is a very energy intensive industry and that energy is in increasingly short supply, with the spectre of European energy rationing raising its head this coming winter.

The conference also heard about unfavourable signs on the overall economic outlook, with construction spending and furniture production predicted to see further decline. For further details on the market predictions shared at the conference please see our coverage.

The industry will have another opportunity to come together for the 12th EPF Wood-based Panel Symposium in October in Hamburg, where technical papers on a vast range of topics will be covered. We will report on the Symposium in the next issue.

This issue of WBPI has Part Two of our annual Focus on MDF, containing news of upcoming new MDF mills across the globe, as well as capacity development for 2022 and beyond.

The report covers the Rest of the World, following our Part One report in the previous issue, which surveyed the MDF industry in Europe and North America.

As independent industry consultant Geoff Rhodes highlights, the final aggregate total for global MDF capacity at the end of 2021 was 121,705,000m3, with future global MDF capacity predicted to rise to 132,636,000m3 for 2022/2023.

With the aforementioned challenges to markets it will be interesting to see if this prediction is born out in next year’s MDF surveys.