Following on from my comments last month about the outlook for the North American conomy, you may like to look at Bernard Fuller’s excellent piece in this issue in which he analyses the economy and the prospects for the panel industry on that continent with his usual great depth and authority.

He confirms that 2012 started with promise and, while it may slow down in the second quarter, he is fairly optimistic about the year as a whole and the next couple of years as well. Mind you, Bernard admits that his crystal ball is not infallible and things may be worse – or indeed better – than he has forecast.

Of course nobody is really in a position to make similar forecasts about EU Europe as potential financial disaster on a grand scale continues to haunt the euro and sales for the MDF industry remain lacklustre. Eastern Europe, particularly Russia – and Turkey – are once again the bright spots in our survey of the MDF industry in Europe and North America in this issue.

Even our Focus on China is tinged with an atmosphere of caution as the mill managers and owners wonder what the government’s planned economic slowdown holds in store for them and whether there is too much MDF capacity in China, or not.

I am slightly embarrassed by having said in our OSB survey in the last issue of WBPI that "China is apparently showing no further interest in large-scale OSB plants" – and – "There are serious question marks over the market demand for OSB in China", only for Dieffenbacher to announce, shortly after we went to press, that it had sold a second continuous line to China.

I should know better – China is always full of surprises and this one was kept secret until early May for obvious reasons of confidentiality. Thanks, Dieffenbacher!

However, there is another development in OSB in China. A company called Yunnan Yung Lifa Forest Co Ltd has developed a bamboo based OSB specifically for use in container floors and is in the process of scaling-up production. Other end-uses for different constructions are also envisaged.

A significant piece of news in the machinery world also occurred in the last days of April as Siempelkamp took a 25.1% stake in size-reduction machinery maker Pallmann, saving that historic company from financial ruin, while preserving its independence. The significance of this transaction, though, lies in the increasing positioning of the two main oem players in offering a ‘one-stop-shop’ for the complete panel line. Siempelkamp now has more-direct access to chippers, flakers, etc made by Pallmann, but perhaps the most significant ‘addition’ to Siempelkamp’s portfolio is the Pallmann refiner, which it says will be its default offering.

There are now very few ‘non-aligned’ manufacturers of chippers and flakers etc and they will surely feel increasingly isolated in this competitive market.