As a fairly new product in Iran’s wood based panels market, and in spite of its short period of consumption in the country, MDF is a very familiar product among Iranian consumers and every year we can see considerable   increases in its consumption in Iran.
Less than 10 years have passed from the arrival of the first MDF shipment into the country and during this period, consumption has increased on average by 259.3% annually. The first time MDF was imported was in 1996, when total consumption of the product was about 135m3.
During the past nine years, the amount of MDF imported has shown a rapid upward trend and in 2004 it reached 217,081m3. This year, with the start-up of production of the first MDF factory in Iran, 26,300m3 MDF was produced and sent to the domestic market.
Between 1996 and 2003 the entire consumption of MDF was supported by imports and in 2004, in spite of the production of MDF in Iran, the majority of consumption was still reliant on imports.
According to Iranian customs tariffs, which are based on the International Harmonised System, different kinds of fibreboards have been categorised in tariff number 4411, while tariff numbers 441121, 44112110, 44112190 and 44112900 relate to MDF.
Table 1 below shows the amount of customs duty for the import of different kinds of MDF, accompanied by the tariff number, based on the latest changes in 2005.
The lower tariff rate for raw MDF is set to encourage the process of developing a domestic laminating industry.
The rapid increase in both import and consumption of this product, even with the existence of relatively high tariff rates, is a sign of the fact that, with the increase in domestic MDF production, or the reduction of tariff rates, we will certainly see a considerable increase in consumption.
According to statistics, the amount of MDF imported between 1996 and 2004 has been increasing continuously.
The statistics for the imports in previous years are given in table 2.
In the first years of import and consumption of MDF in Iran, the majority of shipments were in the form of surface-laminated board but during recent years, the share of raw MDF versus laminated has been increasing every year. In 2004 more than half the MDF imports were in the form of raw board and this ratio in 2005 is expected to be about 60%.
It is clear that up to 2001 more than 70% of imported MDF was in the form of laminated boards.
It must be mentioned that the majority of surface-improved MDF is melamine faced. Also, while MDF in the form of panels constitutes the majority of imported board, every year, quantities of MDF in the form of flooring and profiles have been imported.
Countries which export MDF to Iran include Turkey, Malaysia, UAE, Russia, Germany, Italy, Spain, Canada, Romania, France and Belgium, among others.
Turkey supplies about half the imported board. The proximity of Iran and Turkey – and the existence of fast and cheap connections such as railway and road, cheaper transportation and a long history of commercial exchanges between these two countries on the one hand, and over-capacity of the MDF industry in Turkey and their competitive prices on the other – are good reasons to encourage the Iranian consumer to import Turkey’s MDF.
On the other hand, some consumers – about half of them – have a tendency to use better quality MDF and Turkey’s products cannot satisfy these requirements. Those consumers, including well-known Iranian cabinet and furniture producers, import their MDF requirements from other European countries and even Canada.
The principal importers of MDF in Iran are laminators, kitchen cabinet and furniture manufacturers and some commercial companies and panel distributors.
It is forecast that in 2005 and 2006, 300,000m3 and 335,000m3 of MDF respectively will be imported to Iran (see table 2).
From the point of view of export we can say that MDF has not really featured up to now. However, MDF in the form of final products such as furniture is being exported from the country.
Production of MDF started in Iran from the beginning of 2004. The first producer was Sanaye Choobe Khazar, which in that year produced 26,300m3 of MDF and sent it to the market. The main supplier of this company’s production line was Shanghai Wood Based Panel Machinery Co (SWPM) but some of its more sensitive machinery, such as the defibrator, has been supplied by European producers.
Panels produced by this company are in a smaller size (1220mm x 2440mm), with a thickness of 16mm. This dimension is not acceptable for the major consumers of MDF, who have modern furniture production lines and demand larger dimensions.
This production line, which was built in the north of Iran near the Caspian sea where the main forests of Iran are located, utilises forest fuel and produces MDF in the form of raw boards.
Capacity of the line is 35,000m3/year and it is forecast that in 2005 it will have a production of about 33,000m3.
With regard to the developing and flourishing MDF market in Iran, a lot of individuals and companies have shown interest in investing in this sector.
Despite hearing a lot of talk about establishing an MDF factory from different companies and individuals, a lot of effort is being made, but those mentioned below can be considered the most serious prospects for projects in Iran.
The Sugar Cane Development & By-Products Co in Khuzestan province in the south of Iran has one MDF line with a capacity of 135,000m3/year under installation. This company, which has vast sugar cane farms and numerous sugar mills, has installed its MDF line as one of its byproduct industries to utilise the bagasse produced from sugar production as the fibre supply.
This mill is under installation by Metso Panelboard and an Iranian engineering company called JTG.
The line has a Metso Contipress continuous press and is scheduled to commence production by November 2005.
Two other MDF lines, supplied by Siempelkamp, are under installation in Sari in the north of Iran. These lines, each of which have 105,000m3 annual capacity, belong to Arian Sina & Arian Chemi Co. One line has a multi-opening and the other a continuous press and both are scheduled to commence production during 2007.
Pars Neopan, one of the Iranian particleboard producers, has one MDF line with a capacity of 75,000m3/year under installation in Tonekabon in the north of Iran. It should be mentioned that this line is a secondhand one from Europe.
Takhteh Feshordeh Bartar Co, which belongs to one of the main producers of kitchen cabinets in Iran, also has one MDF line with a capacity of 75,000m3/year under installation, again in the north.
Siempelkamp signed a contract in July this year with Neopan Bartar Co of Mashad for delivery of a complete MDF plant. It will include a ContiRoll press of 18.8m x 8ft with a daily capacity of 310m3.
Construction is scheduled to commence in March 2006 with start-up of the line later that year. It is intended to supply the furniture industry, although export of panels to neighbouring countries is also possible.
Of course there is another company called Neka Choub Co – one of the oldest Iranian companies in the field of forest products – which is establishing an MDF line with a capacity of 75,000m3/year.
Because of the good market for MDF in Iran, many panel producers, furniture companies and laminators are thinking of building lines. All these lines will have started production by 2009. By then, MDF capacity in Iran will have reached some 605,000m3/year.
Of course some other plants may be added to this capacity in the coming years.
The map on page 52 shows the one MDF factory in operation, and other lines which are under installation.
Projections for MDF capacity and production in Iran, together with import forecasts for 2005 and 2006 are listed in table 2.
Also in this table, figures for MDF consumption in Iran between 1996 and 2004, and the forecasts for 2005 and 2006, have been shown. As can be seen, MDF consumption in Iran has a strong upward trend from 135m3 in 1996 to 243,381m3 in 2004. It is forecast that the upward trend of MDF consumption in Iran during the coming years will continue, reaching 333,000m3 in 2005 and 420,000m3 in 2006.
Per capita consumption of MDF in Iran was 3.62m3 per 1000 capita in 2004.
With regard to world per capita consumption of MDF in 2003 (five cubic metres per 1000 capita according to the FAO) we can reach the conclusion that Iran is closing on world average per capita consumption rapidly and still has strong potential for increased MDF consumption.
Per thousand capita consumption of MDF in 2001, 2002, 2003 was 0.69, 0.97 and 2.11m3 respectively.
Figure 2 above shows the trend of increase in MDF consumption and the forecast for MDF consumption up to 2006.
The majority of consumption in the various furniture industries is in the form of laminated panels. With the exception of imported surface-improved MDF, domestically produced MDF and imported raw board is surfaced with different kinds of media such as melamine papers, laminates, paper foil or PVC foil by domestic laminators and sent to the market. MDF surfaced with natural wood veneer has limited usage, with most being melamine faced.
End-users of the panels in Iran are cabinet industries, office furniture makers, interior decoration industries and so on.
The most familiar thickness used in the country is 16mm, with a small amount of 3mm, 8mm, 25mm and other thicknesses.
The excellent practical capabilities of MDF, coupled with increased demand in the furniture market – especially modern furniture in miscellaneous colours – and the development of a modern furniture industry in Iran, are different factors which cause the development and increase in this panel’s consumption.
It can be used instead of particleboard, wet process fiberboard, plywood and raw wood, but in Iran this substitution, due to the fact that the main use is in the cabinet furniture industry, has occurred more with particleboard. In fact, in spite of an increase in particleboard use and production in Iran, it must be mentioned that this increase is being controlled and restricted by MDF and every year part of the market share of particleboard is being taken over by MDF. As a result, the Iranian particleboard industry sees the development of MDF consumption as a threat to its products’ future market.