Stresa, on the banks of Lake Maggiore in the Italian Alps, made a spectacularly beautiful and stress-free location for the EPF and FEIC annual meetings.
Tearing themselves away from the great outdoors, delegates heard from their two federations about the opportunities and challenges facing their industries.
President of the EPF, Ladislaus Döry, introduced Mrs Pia Elda Locatelli, an Italian Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and long-standing ally of the woodworking sector in Europe.
"There is today a particular interest in renewable energy, with national action plans for transport and biofuel. Make your voice heard at national and European level," urged the MEP.
"We support initiatives for the efficient and sustainable use of biomass and biofuels but we must avoid market distortion, which was overlooked at first," cautioned Mrs Locatelli.
She said the Parliament had set up a new, temporary, committee on climate change in April and suggested this was the "perfect place to promote the use of wood in relation to its environmental qualities".
Mr Döry then gave an overview of the status of the particleboard, MDF and OSB industries.
He reported a growing membership for the EPF, with increasing numbers from eastern as well as western Europe.
"Most recently we were pleased to receive the applications of the Egger Group and the Krono Swiss Group to join EPF with all their member companies.….we now represent 94% of particleboard and 87% of MDF production; and 100% of OSB manufacturers in Europe."
In 2006, particleboard production in the EPF countries reached 37 million m3, an increase of 4% on 2006. Consumption grew 6.2% to reach almost 34 million m3. Exports increased by 2.8%, while imports rose by 2.5% in 2006.
Capacity is expected to increase by almost two million m3 in 2007/8.
Production of MDF in the year rose 5.6% to 12.4 million m3, said the president, while consumption increased 6.1% to 11.7 million m3 and capacity increased 8.8%, with a further increase of 5% forecast for 2007 and 5.3% for 2008.
For OSB, production rose 12% to close to 3.5 million m3, said Mr Döry, "For this year and next, a new big investment in Latvia will add a further 500,000m3."
Mr Döry then warned about "The legend of the woody biomass reserve in Europe". He cited work by Professor Dr Udo Mantau, saying: "[This] clearly shows it is very dangerous to establish targets for wood (energy) use on the basis of official statistics on the net annual increment in the forest and on the fellings".
Professor Mantau’s work pointed out the huge difference in definition between forest inventory data and actual fellings, which has led to the European Environment Agency calculating, wrongly, that an extra 126 million m3 of wood could be extracted from European forests without ecological impact, said Mr Döry.
This miscalculation was due to several factors such as EU inventory data being calculated over bark; including harvest losses and unused fellings; and not including unregistered fellings, said Mr Döry.
The consequence is that regulators see biomass potential where it does not exist, he suggested.
"The EPF recommends the focus of all biomass plans on wood mobilisation and on encouraging efficient use of wood biomass energy," concluded the president.
Mr Uldis Bikis, president of the FEIC, presented his federation’s annual report.
Mr Bikis reported that the FEIC has 75 member companies in 20 countries and welcomed Estonia, Ukraine and a second plywood producer in the Czech Republic as new full members in 2006.
"During 2006, the FEIC member companies equalled the production record of 2005, with plywood production increasing by an average annual rate of 4% over the last 10 years," he said. The strongest growth rates were recorded in the Czech Republic, Finland, Poland and Sweden.
Plywood production was about four million m3 and blockboard 0.3 million m3.
Broadleaved species accounted for 63% of production, tropical 10% and coniferous 27%, he reported.
"Plywood imports have been increasing rapidly since 2002, gaining another 4.6% in 2006 to reach 6.3 million m3 in the EU-25," said Mr Bikis.
In 2006, Russia took first place in import origin ranking, rising by 17%, while imports from Brazil fell. Chinese imports soared by 46%.
Exports also rose under this inward pressure, gaining around 3% in FEIC member countries (EU-25 rose by 4.8%).
In FEIC member countries, plywood consumption increased by 5% last year, to 4.47 million m3.
During 2006, Mr Bikis said the federation put great effort into CE2+ plywood marking for construction panels and established a Technical Working Group to monitor and steer the European and
international standardisation of plywood and to develop and coordinate new research and development projects.
The FEIC has also prepared an application to extend the anti-dumping measures on imports of okoumé plywood from China to redwood plywood as well.
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