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A year of records

Article by Günther Jauk (translated by Eva Guzely) | 17.01.2018 - 09:11
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In 2017, sawmills with an annual capacity of more than 50,000 sm³ have increased cutting by 5% compared to 2016, reaching a total of 11.8 million sm³. This volume might rise to more than 12 million sm³ (+2.5%) in 2018. Adding those companies which have not stated their output in Timber-Online’s survey, the main Austrian sawmills cut about 13.5 million sm³ a year. Interestingly, almost all companies have reported cutting stable or higher volumes of logs. The following five sawmills want to raise cutting to at least one million sm³ in 2018: Binderholz, Hasslacher Norica Timber, Holzindustrie Maresch, Mayr-Melnhof Holz Holding and Stora Enso at their production site in Ybbs.

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Last August, the Timber-Online sales indicator has reached 111%, which is the highest value since December 2013, and has remained more or less stable until the end of last year. Over 90% of sawmills describe their present business situation either as “good” or at least as “satisfactory”, and the past two years have seen a remarkable growth in the willingness to invest (see graphics).

The CLT boom continues

If there was a product of the year in the timber industry, cross-laminated timber would be awarded with this title again. The European industry keeps making considerable efforts to raise production capacities in order to be able to satisfy the demand for massive CLT elements. With new productions announced, the output should grow by about one million m³ a year and reach an annual 1.8 million m³ by 2020. A balanced market would require an annual growth of around 30% of the demand.

More than 700.000 m³ of glulam products

With regard to business development, two Austrian companies have made it to the European top of their respective categories in 2017.

After the takeover of Klenk Holz, one of the biggest German timber companies, the Tyrolese family business Binderholz has become one of the leaders in Europe. In the production of sawn timber, Binderholz (2.9 million m³/year) comes in only second after Stora Enso (4.6 million m³/year). When it comes to the production of glulam (glulam beams, CLT, KVH, solid wood panels), however, the Tyrolese company is the leader. In 2017, Binderholz has started production in its second CLT-producing site in Burgbernheim. Also, it has started up another glulam press in Jenbach and a new press line for solid wood panels in Fügen.

Carinthia’s glulam giant

Hasslacher Norica Timber has surprised the industry with its takeover of the biggest German producer of glulam, Nordlam of Magdeburg, in June. It is the next step in the company’s 20-year long efforts of expansion thanks to which the Carinthian firm has become the biggest producer of glulam on the continent (140,000 m³/year in Sachsenburg and 200,000 m³/year in Magdeburg).

If you add the production of KVH (100,000 m³/year in Preding) and cross-laminated timber (80,000 m³/year in Stall im Mölltal), the total annual output is 520,000 m³ of glulam products, making Hasslacher Norica Timber one of the top 3 European producers. In 2018, a second CLT-press will be started up in Stall which should double the production site’s output. Additionally, the company will start producing small CLT elements in Magdeburg.

Leaving the old world

With the sale of its production site in Friesau to Mercer Holz of Blankenstein/DE in spring, Klausner Group has sold its last sawmill on European soil. A few years ago, the production sites in Wismar and Landsberg had been sold to Ilim Timber and, in summer 2015, Kodersdorf had been bought by Holzindustrie Schweighofer. According to the company, Friesau’s production capacity is 1.3 million m³ of sawn timber. For the sawmill in Friesau and the two pulp mills in Stendal and Rosenthal, Mercer Holz requires about 7 million sm³ a year.

Certifications as a bone of contention

Shortly before Christmas, a new chapter has been opened in the case Schweighofer vs. FSC with the publication of the so-called “FSC Conditions Framework”, a catalogue of conditions to be fulfilled in order to regain the FSC certification. Among other things, FSC demands the extension of Schweighofer’s Due Diligence system to the still-standing tree. Last year, the company had made its own efforts to develop a tracking tool in form of an application which allows the company to track every supplier back to the loading process.

This was not the only time, though, that FSC made the headlines. Tomáš Zdechovský, a Czech Member of the European Parliament, has sued Ikea before the competition authority of the European Commission for its practice of using exclusively FSC-certified wood for its furniture production. According to Zdechovský, Ikea’s strict requirements with regard to certification might represent an inadmissible restriction of competition. In the Czech Republic, the FSC-system applies to only 2% of the country’s forests. The vast majority is certified according to the PEFC-system.

CLT, a future market which might double by 2020

Last year, the cross-laminated timber industry has seen the biggest growth. According to Timber-Online’s research, central European production has gone up by 14% to more than 700,000 m³. The overall European output is expected to double by 2020, or in other words: The industry could see annual growth rates of about 30%. This massive increase is possible thanks to a rise in capacities, additional production sites of existing companies and the entry of new market participants. What is remarkable is not only the growth of markets in and around the Alps, but also the investments which are being made in Northern and Western Europe as well as in North America.

In order to have a balanced market, though, the demand would have to increase by almost a third every year. According to a recent study by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitats (CTBUH), about 40 wooden buildings with eight or more floors were either planned, in the process of construction or finished in 2017, and 2018 will see a number of other innovative projects as well. Despite the numerous projects and very long delivery times, the question remains whether the industry will succeed in balancing supply and demand in the coming years.

A positive outlook

Austrian and German sawmills predict a positive start to the first quarter. In the Timber-Online economical survey, 52% of the interviewees expect a “good” business situation in the first three months of the year, whereas 38% think that their situation will be “satisfactory” (preliminary data).

With this positive outlook, the team of Timber-Online wishes you good luck and success in the new year. We will continue to provide you with the latest information on relevant topics and developments in the timber industry, daily on timber-online.net and every Thursday in printed form.