After analyzing the panel markets in Italy, Europe, North America and South America, today we are presenting the particleboard and Mdf panel market in Australasia, which is the geopolitical definition for the area comprised of Australia and New Zealand.
It’s interesting that in this region there are no plants for Osb production. Panel production in this part of the globe is definitely not significant in terms of volume, if compared to the rest of the world, but it is worth considering that Mdf panels, especially in New Zealand, benefited from significant technological developments in the early Seventies.I want to mention two persons I had the honor to meet and who gave a major contribution to such evolution. The first one was Owen Haylock, an Mdf pioneer who got the first PhD from the Massey University in New Zealand in 1957 and has contributed to the technological development of Mdf production on a global scale. In 1981, in collaboration with Sunds Defibrator, he published an interesting book called: “Medium Density Fiberboard: Its origin, Manufacture and Use”.
He was involved in the concept and commissioning of the first Mdf plant in Asia Pacific back in 1976, namely the Rangiora NZ site of Canterbury Timber Products (Ctp). Another Mdf pioneer is New Zealand’s Murray Sturgeon who, together with Owen Haylock, was involved in the installation of the first Ctp plant in Ashley and then became the big boss of Nelson Pine Industries, now entirely owned by the Japanese group Sumitomo Forestry Limited (not to be confused with Sumitomo Corporation). In Richmond, north of Christchurch, on the South Island of New Zealand, he started to produce the first Mdf panel in 1986 and then he commissioned a second plant with a continuous press by Kuster in 1991, followed by a third one in 1997; then in 2000 another new installation for Lvl (laminated veneer lumber) boards.
So, we can say that Mdf panels have experienced significant developments and technological improvements here “down under”, and of course, especially for New Zealand, most production was exported.
Also consider that, by virtue of its nature, Mdf is the material that most resembles solid wood and is most suitable to finishing operations, i.e. lacquering/painting, and to be processed with machine tools for secondary processing in the furniture industry. By virtue of these features, especially in Asia Mdf panels have the biggest production shares, most of all in China. And just like North America, also this market is dominated by big forestry groups, which have their core business in forest resources and, over the years, have gradually stepped into the wood-based panel market, including particleboard, Mdf or plywood. In 2007, the world’s production capacity of particleboard amounted to 91 million cubic meters, with only 1.1 million made in Australia and New Zealand. Back then, the company Carter Holt Harvey was very active, accounting for almost 50 percent of the entire particleboard capacity in Australia and New Zealand.
In 2018, the world’s capacity is approximately 103.5 million cubic meter annually, up by 12 percent, while in Australasia the capacity level is basically unvaried; new actors are emerging in the market, such as Borg Industries that will launch particleboard production by the end of this year in a brand new plant with 450,000 cubic meter annual capacity, equipped with a continuous press. This group is taking over a few historical production sites in Australia, both for particleboard and for Mdf, and a number of lamination and surface finishing plants, including Mont Gambier and Oberon. It should be noted that there is only one all-Australian private company that makes raw and laminated particleboard, namely D&R Henderson, with operations in Benalla, NSW. Particleboard is not very popular in New Zealand, while in Australia it represents the largest business compared to plywood and Mdf, with a 52 percent market share in the past decade. Several changes have occurred in the business landscape in this region.
For instance, last March, the Sumitomo Forestry production site in Victoria Australia decided to sell all Alpine Mdf shares to the Thai company Metro Particle, the Asian giant of particleboard and Mdf.
More recent news from the Mdf business, dating back to June, is an acquisition by the Japanese company Daiken Corp., who took full control of the Matuara Mdf plant in New Zealand previously owned by the Korean company Dongwha together with Laminex Group, a Fletcher Building division.
We can easily guess that, for Japan, panel production in Australia and New Zealand is highly strategic both for the import of semifinished materials and in the field of forest and energy resources.
We will now look at a few statistics of Mdf panel production. In 2008, the world’s Mdf capacity amounted to approximately 57 million cubic meters, with Australasia holding a share of 1.86 million just below 3.2 percent, comprised of 954 thousand cubic meters in Australia and 913 thousand cubic meters in New Zealand. As previously mentioned, the global capacity at the end of 2017 was about 105 million cubic meters/year (exceeding the production capacity of particleboard for the first time), so it was almost doubled. In this case, Australasia preserved its production capacity for Mdf panels.
Generally speaking, the situation of the market “down under” is positive. Constant production capacity and a remarkable export share, combined with huge forest resources, support a stable market trend. In the next article we will analyze the Asian market, then we’ll go back to North America to investigate the plywood, Osb, Lvl and solid-wood panel market.