The housing recovery in the US seems now to be solid. Therefore, a number of large OSB producers are looking seriously at restarting mills which had been ‘moth-balled’ since the recession bit in 2007; and at reviving new mill projects which had been suspended.

With the well-documented history of North American OSB producers ‘shooting themselves in the foot’ by increasing capacity too much, too soon, it is to be hoped that a phased return is favoured this time, rather than a fevered rush to more volume.

Meanwhile, ‘across the pond’ in Europe, the picture is quite staggeringly new. There are no less than seven new mills to come in Russia, as well as one in Poland and one in Belarus.

Looking further east to Asia, China, contrary to what some people said quite decisively, only last year, is getting three new mills, with a total capacity of 770,000m3. Those people said that Baoyuan had made a mistake in building the first continuous OSB line in China and that it would be the last…..

Perhaps even more surprising is that one definite, and one distinctly possible, mill is to be built in western Europe – in Eire and the UK. This comes after years of more or less stagnant capacity in that region, apart from some relatively small capacity ‘tweaks’ by adjustments to existing machinery.

Meanwhile, in our news pages we find that South America has several new mill projects in MDF and particleboard, including Duraplay in Mexico and Duratex in Brazil (p6); and Asperbras in Brazil.

This issue also features our preview of the Xylexpo exhibition, to be held in Milan, Italy, on May 13-17. This biennial show has been declining for some years now and the advent of a competing show, Technodomus, in Rimini, Italy, in 2009 certainly didn’t help.

Three major Italian machinery makers who were long-term supporters of Xylexpo, namely Biesse, Cefla and SCM, decided in 2009 to withdraw their support from the Milan show and instead to support Technodomus. This was a near-fatal blow for an already-struggling Xylexpo as the trio’s stands had occupied very large areas in the halls for many years.

This year, those ‘deserters’ have decided to return to Xylexpo, but I fear the damage is already done. Poor visitor attendance in Xylexpo 2010 and 2012 – on top of declining figures in previous years – has led many machinery companies to decide not to support Xylexpo any more. Those of us who can remember when it was called Interbimall (prior to 1998!) remember a vibrant, crowded show, but times change and machinery companies question whether they can afford to attend both Ligna and Xylexpo – and if it comes to a choice, there is of course no contest. Sad but true. I intend to be at Xylexpo anyway and I sincerely hope that it is a success.