More than 100 delegates converged in the Belgian city for the first time since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic to hear the EPF describe market dynamics in the European panel industry.

The excellent performance achieved, however, did not give way to any celebratory feelings, as EPF managing director Clive Pinnington said the EPF was “cautious” about the years ahead.

The EPF’s 2021/22 Annual Report presented at the AGM showed combined production of European wood-based panels producers was 63.7 million m3 in 2021, offsetting a drop of 2.1% in 2020. The 2021 volume was a 7.6% increase on the pre-pandemic 2019 level.

Particleboard production grew by 12% in 2021 to 34 million m3, with Germany staying as Europe’s largest producer with an 18% share of production.

MDF volumes increased by 7.6% to 12.9 million m3, with Germany again the largest producer with a 26% market share.

OSB production climbed by 2% to 7.2 million m3 in 2021

Softboard continued its meteoric rise with a 12.6% growth to 5.6 million m3, while plywood production rose by 12.2% to 3.2 million m3.

Compared to 2019, all these individual product areas were up in 2021.

EPF chairman Martin Brettenthaler, president, said the industry now faced very a very complicated and challenging situation.

He referenced the challenge of raw wood and chemicals supply bringing upheaval and turmoil. He said some mills had issues with securing enough wood supply to maintain production.

The Ukraine conflict and resulting sanctions meant there was now even more of a tendency to burn wood for energy and thus competing with the panel industry for wood feedstock.

He referenced the high current price of energy wood at over €400 per tonne.

“Our industry is really facing a large raw material shortage,” Mr Brettenthaller said.

Mr Brettenthaler said the wood-based panels sector was a very energy intensive industry and that energy was in short supply, citing the possibility of energy rationing in some European countries this coming winter.

“For the EPF, we need to build on the resilience which we have shown in the pandemic.”

“We need to work together for the urgency of the situation, in all sectors not just the wood-based panels industry, to work with policy makers. There is not that level of urgency [with policy makers] at the moment.

“We need to tell the policy makers that photovoltaic panels and other renewable energy is not going to cut it. We need energy this winter.”

He urged a call for action, otherwise next year at the EPF AGM there could be a much more “dire ambiance and that’s not what we want to see”.

A full report on the EPF AGM and presentations will be included in the August/September issue of WBPI.