The main application area of MDF remains furniture, accounting for about 65% of the total end-user market, followed by construction and laminate flooring, each holding a 15% share. Nevertheless, laminate flooring is strongly coming to the fore and is regarded as the major engine behind growth of the MDF industry for the next years. European consumption of laminate flooring rose by 20% during 2002 and is expected to continue expanding at the current pace, offering bright prospects for the MDF industry. Other applications of MDF include mouldings, representing some 2% of the total, whereas panelling and interior & stand construction consume the remaining 3%. MDF is also used in a few niche markets such as toys.
Noteworthy is the strong increase recorded in Austria, where MDF consumption rose by 16%. The growing popularity of MDF in the countries with a market share of less than 5% is also demonstrated by the fact that the market share of the six major consuming countries declined from 76% in 1992 to just 70% in 2002.
For 2003, forecasts are rather conservative and marked by cautious optimism. MDF consumption is expected to grow slightly slower than during 2002, with growth rates projected between 6% and 8%. Belgium recorded excellent growth of 19% during 2002 and MDF consumption is assumed to expand further, but at a slower pace. Poland, on the other hand, rose by 13% and since MDF demand almost outperformed overall supply, further strong growth is expected. Greece is preparing for the Olympics and witnesses an increasing demand for MDF. The favourable upward trend in MDF consumption in the UK and Ireland is anticipated to accelerate during 2003 in view of a positive evolution on the market. Exports to foreign markets are expected to face a sharp deceleration or even a sudden decline in 2003, as the exchange rate of the EUR renders sales less attractive.