Business is obviously not too good for anybody involved in the panel industry at the moment, but I am pleased to see that it is not all ‘doom and gloom’ in our news pages in this issue.
Some panel manufacturers are still planning growth in their capacities: notably Kastamonu MDF in Turkey; Sadepan Latinoamericana particleboard in Argentina; Masisa MDP (particleboard) in Chile; Roy O Martin plywood in the US; and Ivatsevichdrev particleboard in Belarus.

You may think such plans are rash in the present economic climate, or you may think that these companies see reasons to be planning ahead for the better times which they expect to come.
There can be little doubt that there is pent-up demand for housing in many parts of the world – not least Latin America – and, sooner or later, that demand will have to be met. And meeting it will undoubtedly require a lot of panel products.
Acquisition is another area which has gathered pace this year across the industry. We report on another one for Dieffenbacher, in the form of wood size-reduction machinery maker B Maier, while Arauco has taken over Tafisa Brasil, Berneck of Brazil is looking for an acquisition/joint venture in the region and Century Plyboards of India wants to acquire MDF capacity in Thailand.
This may be a good time to buy, with company values being depressed by the currently poor market.
I have just returned from the IPPS (International Panel Products Symposium) in Nantes, France. We will bring a full review in the next issue of WBPI, but I can report now that a lot of emphasis at the symposium fell on environmental matters. These issues are not a threat to our industry. Correctly handled, the environmental debate could be one of the best opportunities the wood products industry as a whole has ever had.
In a typical SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis, the strength of the wood products industry is its capacity to sequester carbon in its products and to lock it up almost indefinitely by recycling the wood. This is probably unique in the building products sector. One potential weakness is the formaldehyde issue, but this is being urgently addressed by the scientific community and resin producers. The opportunities are obvious, given the major strength already mentioned.
The threat is if the sector itself does not do enough to (a) promote the enormous environmental and practical benefits of the products of the woodworking industries and (b) defend its raw material supplies against the biomass energy sector.