I wish I could write this column without referring to the global
economic crisis, but I suppose it would be a bit like printing this magazine without reference to wood based panels. The financial crisis is there in all its unfolding horror and will have to be faced.
Although the early signs of serious problems in the US economy were already very apparent, I think it is fair to say that the panel industry in the rest of the world started 2008 in fine form.

The market, which had been good for the past two or three years, seemed set fair and the optimism of 2007 carried over into the new year. However, as we all now know only too well, we were at the top of the hill then and the only way was down.
The machinery manufacturers built up record order books in the last couple of years and most still have their production
facilities committed until mid- or even end-2009. We must hope that this will carry them through until the panel manufacturers themselves can return to healthy markets.
When the upturn will come is hard to estimate as governments struggle to find ways to restore confidence in financial markets.
However, if we tear ourselves away from the grim economic headlines and focus on the opportunities for the wood products – and particularly the panel products – industries, things have the potential, at least, to look a lot more positive.
Building codes demanding ever more energy-efficient housing and commercial buildings present great opportunities for wood.
The recyclability of wood is another strength. Steel and plastic industries may make similar claims, but when energy input is taken into account, they don’t have a chance – or they shouldn’t.
The sustainability and ‘climate benefits’ of wood products from properly managed resources should be beyond question.
All we as an industry have to do is to make sure everyone, from designers to builders to the consumer, understands these strengths. In that way, we will have a bigger slice of whatever cake is available when the financial bad news is over.
At the European Wood Based Panels Symposium in Hannover (p54), president of the EPF, Ladislaus Döry, made an impassioned plea for support from his members in getting this positive
message across and for help in building a “global coalitionand I know he could have been speaking for all his fellow federations/
associations around the world. As he so aptly said: “We are all in the same, wooden, boat”.
I wish you a very Happy Christmas and let’s enter 2009 fighting wood’s detractors – and especially those who would just burn it!