MDF and Hardboard Imports rise, as Particleboard imports fall

Australia’s imports of particleboard fell by 8.5% for the year-ended May 2016, even as imports of the other ‘panel products’ all rose. Significantly, over the same period, imports of MDF/Hardboard rose a solid 12.3%, while there was only a very limited rise in imports of plywood (1.3%). The MDF/Hardboard detail is especially interesting to many in industry right now as it comes in the midst of the ACCC’s consideration of the Borg Group’s proposed acquisition of Alpine MDF.

The MDF market appears to be well-studied right now, as the proposed acquisition of Alpine MDF is considered by multiple parties. It is a suitable place to start this analysis. Total MDF imports, including what is commonly termed ‘Hardboard’ (density greater than 800kgs per m3) amounted to 183,100 m3 for the year-ended May 2016, as the chart below shows.


To go straight to the dashboard and take a closer look at the data, click here.

Perhaps most importantly, the detailed data shows that imports are dominated by 4411.14.90.44 MDF mechanically worked or surface covered and 4411.92.00.51 high-density Hardboard. However, it is also notable in the chart that the major grades of MDF have also grown in volume.


To go straight to the dashboard and take a closer look at the data, click here.

Most importantly, including in the context of Alpine MDF, is that the largest volume of MDF imports is the greater than 9mm machine worked (eg mouldings, joinery items) or surface covered (eg low pressure melamine) represented by the purple column in the chart above. Imports rose a very sizeable 22.6% for the year-ended May 2016 and totalled 52,599 m3 for the year.

As the chart below shows, those imports rose from mid-2014, almost exactly at the time the Australian Dollar commenced its depreciation against the US Dollar. That is, despite becoming more expensive, imports of a key grade of MDF actually grew. 


To go straight to the dashboard and take a closer look at the data, click here.


The contrast with Particleboard imports is also interesting. Their 8.5% decline came across the same period, making imports more expensive. However, even as the housing boom continued, particleboard imports were simply unable to keep up with the pricing pressures and were supplanted by increased domestic production.