During the recent EPF General Assembly, held on 4 November 2004 in Brussels, the European wood-based panels manufacturers were pleased to conclude that demand accelerated vigorously during the first six months of 2004, especially for particleboard, which is experiencing increasingly better market conditions since the end of 2003. However, the EPF members expressed their concern about the sharp increase in the prices of the raw materials, in particular for resins and energy, which are reflected in a considerable rise in the manufacturing costs and could soon lead to a substantial increase in the prices for wood-based panels. On the other hand, the sizeable increments in production output still enabled a further reduction of the stock levels, indicating the renewed health of the markets.
Evaluating the developments on the wood-based panels markets for the first half-year of 2004 during their General Assembly on 4 November 2004 in Brussels, the EPF members concluded that the recovery that initiated in the second half of 2003 finally led to clear positive results and a better than expected outlook for the entire year 2004, which might well approach the record year 2000 when superior demand levels and favourable market conditions prevailed.
The recovery of the particleboard industry has been accelerating remarkably over the first half of 2004. Following a 6.2% increase in production output during the first quarter of 2004, a striking 8.6% growth rate was reported for the second quarter, as the EPF member countries reached their highest quarterly production volume ever, recorded at more than 7.7 million m³. This upswing was supported by a great increase in demand by nearly 10%. In addition, exports soared by almost 18% as especially the Eastern European and foreign markets created a major outlet. These favourable market opportunities also enabled a further downward stock movement. Particleboard stocks have been dropping progressively since the last quarter of 2003 and now fell by another 8%, while the outlook points to a further stock reduction, besides a positive trend in domestic consumption.
After 6 months in 2004, particleboard production increased by 7.4% compared to the first half of 2003. Demand grew by nearly 9%, while exports recorded an average 14% rise. With the third and fourth quarter of 2004 being the key indicators of the strength of the recovery, the further upward trends in the production output and demand levels during the summer holidays nourished optimism for enhanced year-end results in the particleboard industry ranging between 5% and 7%.
The MDF production was about 5% higher in the first half of 2004 than in the same period of 2003, confirming the expected overall year-end rise. In particular the home sales appear to be the main drivers behind this growth, registering clear two-digit growth both on quarterly and 6 month basis. Exports picked up again in the second quarter of 2004, but deliver a rather weak 2% increase over the first half of the year. The MDF stocks as a percentage of production continued to go down and reached as such their lowest level since the end of 1998. For the third quarter, the home sales remain the key engine to fuel continued growth in the MDF industry.
During the first 6 months of 2004, European OSB production increased by a striking 20% compared to just 8% growth after 6 months in 2003. Following their firm growth in 2003, exports to North America remained close to their previous years levels, while sales to Asia and other foreign markets improved noticeably, although concern smaller volumes. In line with the other panels, also OSB enjoys historically low stock levels and a favourable year-end outlook.
Source: Holz.net vom 2004-11-15.