Housing starts in North America are lower than expected, and cheap imports and directional particleboard (OSB) have adversely affected the plywood industry.
2017 is a record year for plywood production, with a global output of 161 million m3. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recently identified 109 countries producing plywood, of which Cyprus produces only 7 m3 and China 117 million m3. China’s rising trend is unprecedented. North America’s output is generally stable, with 850,000 m3 hardwood plywood and 12.45 million m3 softwood plywood.
The coming era
The industrial manufacture of plywood originated from the veneer crafts of ancient China, Egypt and Greece. It was launched at the World’s Fair in Portland, Oregon (USA) in 1905. The industry has enjoyed a strong sales era and experienced a cyclical downturn. The historical response of the plywood industry to adverse conditions is to invent new products, find new applications, and produce more effectively.
Observers point out that plywood has at least 10,000 uses and is constantly developing new applications. The characteristics of veneer products are odd-layer veneer cross-billet, which can be manufactured by various tree species and technologies. This versatility makes plywood an ideal product for applications ranging from basic cladding and industrial components to highly engineered structural design.
In recent decades, North America has been distinctly different from the rest of the world. North American plywood production (defined as Panama and north, including the Caribbean, although Canada and the United States accounted for more than 99 per cent) peaked at 23.6 million m3 in 1987, and then declined as acceptance of low-cost orientated particleboard (OSB) increased. In 1967, North America accounted for more than half of global production (56.3 per cent), but by 2017 it had fallen to 7.6 per cent. However, significant growth in South America, Europe and China offset the recession in North America.