10 Mai 2005

European wood-based panels industries are optimistic for 2005

At the occasion of the Interzum fair in Cologne on 29 April 2005, Germany, EPF and FEIC presented their most recent statistics during a joint press conference. Both federations were pleased to announce several new record levels in production as well as in consumption of wood-based panels. Despite some restraining factors such as the unfavourable exchange rate of the US dollar against the euro, rising production costs due to increased resin and energy prices, besides higher transportation costs in line with the soaring oil prices, the wood-based panels industries wrote an exceptionally positive chapter during 2004. For this year, the panel producers are modestly optimistic.

Mr Ladislaus Döry, President of the European Panel Federation, presented the situation in the wood-based panels industries, covering members in 23 countries, both in Western Europe and to an increasing extent in Eastern Europe. Within the European particleboard industry, the EPF member countries represent 90% of the total European production. Following three years of sluggish growth, the particleboard industry finally picked up the positive track again.

During 2004, particleboard production within the EPF member countries amounted to 34.3 million m3 and reached as such a new highest level. Compared to 2003, this means a robust increase of 5.2%, but even the previous record level from the year 2000 was topped by more than 1 million m3. On the overall European level, particleboard production increased by 4.8% during 2004 up to 38.2 million m3. These favourable results were underpinned by the recovery of the end-user markets. In particular the revival of the furniture market and the resumed construction activities provided sound impetus to particleboard sales.

Within the EPF member countries, consumption has risen by 6.4% during 2004 up to 31.2 million m3, thereby approaching the 2000 record very closely. On the European scale, growth in particleboard consumption reached 5.9%, piloting total demand to nearly 35 million m3, which clearly exceeds the previous record level of 2000. The Eastern European countries provided the additional momentum that was required to bring demand back to this record level. With some new capacities coming on stream in 2005 and 2006, the prospects for further growth in production and demand are favourable for the particleboard industry, which is expected to maintain a good operating rate and a healthy supply/demand balance.

Also the MDF industry performed well in 2004. MDF production increased by 5.7% up to a new record level of 11.9 million m3. Over the past decade, MDF production has been growing along the lines of an average annual growth rate of 13%. Very dynamic European markets, where total demand increased by 10.1% to 11.4 million m3, backed the continued growth during 2004. Demand was boosted again by strong growth of the laminate flooring industry, which has become the most important market for MDF in Europe and now accounts for 40% of all sales.

Exports, on the other hand, were rather quiet. For 2005, MDF consumption is expected to grow further, although probably at a lower pace. The European OSB industry registered the highest growth rates with production amounting to 2.8 million m3, which means that the previous record was beaten by almost 15%. Over the past decade, OSB production has been growing on average by nearly 30%. European demand for OSB has equally risen by 15% during 2004 to set a new record level at 2.4 million m3. In absolute terms, this means an augmentation by more than 300,000 m3 in line with the additionally produced output, which is one of the highest in ten years. For 2005, the OSB production is firmly expected to cross the 3 million m3 threshold.

The main current actions of EPF include in first instance the co-sponsorship of the CEI-Bois roadmap to 2010, which aims at making wood and wood-based products leading materials by the year 2010 and will be an important priority during the next few years. Secondly, EPF wishes to safeguard the availability of wood raw material for our industry. Thirdly, EPF supports its members in implementing the CE-marking for wood-based panels for construction and monitors that Member States abolish their existing barriers to trade and do not create new ones.

Furthermore, EPF started research projects on moisture resistance and reaction to fire. EPF supports promising projects within the 6th European Research Framework Programme and prepares the 7th Framework Programme by contributing to the Technological Platform created by the Forest-Based Industries. EPF also monitors regulatory and public issues. In this respect, in particular the developments for chemical substances like formaldehyde and VOCs are important. Finally, Mr Döry points the attention to the redesigned website of EPF (www.europanels.org) as well as to specialised websites on MDF (www.mdf-info.org) and OSB (www.osb-info.org).

The European Panel Federation (EPF) represents the European manufacturers of particleboard, MDF and OSB from 23 countries.

Mr Nicola Reni, President of the European Federation of the Plywood Industry, informed about the market situation for plywood in Europe. Thanks to several new members in recent years, FEIC now represents 75 member companies in 21 countries with a total production capacity of more than 4 million m3 of plywood and blockboard. During 2004, the FEIC member companies were able to continue their non-stop growth pattern in terms of production. Within the FEIC member countries, plywood production increased by 2.6% during 2004 up to a new record level at more than 3.6 million m3.

Especially the strong performance of Europes largest plywood producer, Finland, boosted the overall result. In addition, also France recovered markedly during 2004, in particular thanks to a dynamic coniferous plywood sector. Italy, by contrast, had to witness the closure of some important (poplar) plywood mills at the beginning of the year, which accounted together for 14.5% of the total Italian production capacity.

The second product from the plywood industry is blockboard, which is mainly produced in Germany. Italy is the second producer, while also Poland and the Czech Republic produce significant volumes of blockboard. The total European production of blockboard in 2004 amounted to 268,000 m3, which was 0.7% less than in the previous year and thus extends the downward trend in the European results since 2000.

Plywood consumption within the FEIC member countries remained fairly stable during 2004. The previous year had recorded an exceptionally strong upswing, when plywood consumption increased by nearly 6%. During 2004, demand remained at just over 3.8 million m3 and thus maintained the high level achieved the year before. However, there are some major consumers of plywood that are fully dependent on imports to satisfy their domestic demand, such as the UK, Netherlands, Denmark and Ireland. The UK is of particular importance since it is Europes largest consumer of plywood. These countries are not included in the FEIC statistics and, therefore, the total European consumption level is much higher.

However, it has to be considered that the FEIC plywood manufacturers are facing strong competitive pressure from foreign imports on their local markets. During 2004, imports of plywood into the EU amounted to 3.6 million m3 and thus equalled the FEIC production output, while demand only amounted to 6 million m3. This highlights the pressure on the European markets that is increasingly affecting the European manufacturers.

The most aggressive competitor, who is disturbing the European markets since four years, is China. In particular Chinese imports of okoumé plywood have been disrupting the European markets dramatically with rapidly rising volumes of abnormally cheap okoumé plywood, a product that is normally situated in the higher end of the market. Therefore, FEIC lodged a complaint against these imports in July 2003, which led to the start of an official anti-dumping investigation by the European Commission in August that year. On 17 May 2004, provisional anti-dumping duties of up to 48.5% were imposed against all Chinese exporters, while four Chinese companies, who co-operated well during the investigation, received reduced provisional duties between 8.5% and 23.9%.

The Commission meanwhile continued its investigations during another 6 months and decided to raise the duties and imposed final anti-dumping anti-dumping measures up to 66.7%, as published in the Official Journal on 12 November 2004.

Despite the fact that these duties have been in place for 5 months, the European plywood manufacturers are still suffering. Indeed, as expected, the Chinese exporters have been very inventive in finding solutions to circumvent these duties. As such, okoumé plywood is declared under a different product code or suddenly appears on the market with a different name e.g. redwood plywood.

In addition, even though the imports of officially declared okoumé plywood dropped during 2004, the imports of plywood in general continued to increase at a stunning pace and more than doubled in 2004 as compared to 2003 up to nearly 300,000 m3. Since these imports also concern exceptionally cheap priced products and include new Chinese plywood products such as bintangor, kedongdong, red canarium and film-faced plywood, an increasing number of European plywood manufacturers are now being affected by these imports. FEIC is therefore investigating the possibilities of a new anti-dumping complaint against all plywood imports from China.

From the technical field, Mr Reni reported that FEIC is considering the CE marking as an important proof of the quality of construction plywood. Therefore, FEIC is advocating the full implementation of the Construction Products Directive, in particular of the harmonised standard EN 13986. In this framework, FEIC strongly opposes to any attempts of the EU Member States to create or maintain technical barriers to the trade in construction plywood.

In the field of standardisation, the new European standard EN 12369-2 is an important and very useful tool for architects, designers and engineers, because it gives them tabulated characteristic values for use in their design calculations for their structures. These characteristic values are based on the bending strength classes that have been established in the new version of the specification standard EN 636 for plywood. They should really support an increased use of plywood in structural applications. Obviously, manufacturers always have the possibility to declare their own characteristic values.

Source: holz.net vom 2005-05-09.

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