I am still looking forward to the day when I can talk about recovery in the world economic  situation and can confidently predict growth in panel output and sales. In the meantime, I have to be content with looking for breaks in the oppressive clouds of recession.

South America offers one such glimpse of light as its panel industry apparently remains relatively buoyant and expansion plans – notably for MDF and medium density particleboard – continue to be hatched. Meanwhile, the announcement of the intention to merge Brazil’s Duratex and Satipel, two of the major players in the region, surprised most people and will, it is said, create the largest panel making group in the southern hemisphere, with a combined capacity of around four million m3.

There has been much talk of the need for, or indeed inevitability of, consolidation among panel makers in most regions, too, especially in China, and Duratex/Satipel may not be the last  merger or takeover to be announced this year around the world.

Just as significantly, the new Duratex SA will control a large plantation resource to ensure its supply of raw material into the future and that is something many panel manufacturers would love to be able to say.

Wood availability is an issue that is still at the top of the agenda for the European Panel Federation, as emphasised at its annual general meeting by president Ladislaus Döry (p14). The EPF is calling for reliable data to inform the ongoing debate concerning biomass power generation versus panel production.

The machinery sector has also seen ownership changes, with the most significant announcement being the acquisition of Kronospan’s shares in Shanghai Wood Based Panel Machinery Co Ltd by Dieffenbacher of Germany. This creates a major force in complete line production across both the price and technology range.

Then, at the Ligna show, Siempelkamp announced its takeover of German front-end machinery maker Hombak, adding to its coverage of machinery for complete production lines.

Meanwhile the markets for panel products unfortunately continue to disappoint, while capacity from existing new mill projects is still being added, particularly in MDF, in China and South America.

Now to something else that’s new: we have launched a comprehensive WBPI Buyer’s Guide on www.wbpionline.com – a directory of suppliers of machinery and services to the industry. Log on to our free website to make use of this handy new tool.