This brief looks at the demand and production trends and outlook for 2050 for mechanical wood products, both at the EU and global level.

Sawn wood

Global sawn wood consumption has been influenced by various factors, such as demographic changes, economic growth, regional shifts, environmental policies, energy policies, and technological developments. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), global sawn wood production and consumption declined drastically from 2007 to 2009, mostly because of reductions in North America and Europe due to economic recession (Figure 1). Afterwards, the demand for sawn wood has recovered in many regions, especially in Asia, which is the world’s main net importing region. Europe, North America, and other developed countries accounted for three quarters of global sawn wood production and consumption and are net exporters of sawn wood. However, ten years after the 2007–2009 recession, sawnwood consumption in Europe and other developed countries has not recovered to the 2007 levels. At the same time, in the developing countries sawnwood consumption almost doubled, nearly reaching the developed countries consumption levels. The main driver of this growth is the increasing demand for wood products in housing and building, especially in developing countries.

Figure 1. Historic sawnwood apparent consumption and production in Europe and other developed countries vs. developing regions, FAOSTAT.

Wood-based panels

Wood-based panels are products made from wood or wood fibers, such as plywood, particleboard, fiberboard, and oriented strand board (OSB). They have various applications in construction, furniture, packaging, and other industries. Wood-based panels consumption has increased significantly in the past decades, driven by population growth, urbanization and income levels. For the global wood-based panels consumption and production, a trend similar to the sawnwood historical trend can be observed (see Figures 2 and 3). Wood-based panels consumption in Europe and other developed countries has not recovered to the 2007 levels after the great economic recession, while in the developing countries wood-based panels consumption almost doubled, exceeding developed countries consumption levels. Particleboards and oriented strand board grew very rapidly up until 2007 in Europe and other developed countries. Also fibreboard demand was growing well until 2007 with a substantial decline during the 2007–2009 downturn and slower growth afterwards. Plywood consumption stagnated in developed region since the 1970s. Despite the reduction and stagnation of total wood-based panels consumption in the developed regions (see Figure 3), the demand for all major types of wood-based panels in the developed regions experienced a strong growth especially after 2000. With plywood having the highest demand in volume, fibreboard grew in volume very close to plywood, and particleboard & OSB grew fast but with a lower volume. The overall wood-based panels consumption volume in the developing regions exceeded developed regions demand in 2009 with continuing growth through the 2010s and expected growth outlook for the next 30 years. Future wood-based panels demand projection for the next 30 years is in-line with the past growth (Figure 3), which is driven by expected GDP growth and estimated GDP elasticities. GDP growth projections are country specific based on the reference scenario (van Leeuwen et al., 2022)1. However, GDP elasticities are not country specific, these are product specific, based on Morland et al. 20182 and Buongiorno 20153.

Figure 2. Historic wood-based panels apparent consumption and production in Europe & other developed countries (right side) vs. developing regions (left side), FAOSTAT.
Figure 3. Historic (1961–2021) and projected (2022–2050) wood-based panels apparent consumption in Europe & other developed countries vs. developing regions, historic by FAOSTAT and projected by EFI-GTM.

Use of common GDP elasticities, based on scientific literature mostly relaying on panel data (time series cross section – pooling all countries’ time series into single panel data for each product) leads to use of product specific unified for all countries income elasticity. Using such single (unified) GDP elasticity for each solid-wood product type produce plausible outlook for wood-based panels (Figure 3), however, outlook for sawnwood for the next 30 years doesn’t look consistent with historic sawnwood demand trends, especially visible for the future outlook disconnected from the past trend for the developing regions (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Historic (1961–2021) and projected (2022–2050) sawnwood apparent consumption in Europe & other developed countries vs. developing regions, historic by FAOSTAT and projected by EFI-GTM.

Nevertheless, the outlook for sawnwood consumption for the developed regions seems more in line with the past trend. Figure 5 shows future EU27 sawnwood and wood-based panels consumption and production outlook, which are consistent with the past trends.

Figure 5. Historic (1961–2021) and projected (2022–2050) sawnwood and wood-based panels apparent consumption and production in EU27 region, historic by FAOSTAT and projected by EFI-GTM.


van Leeuwen et al. Future market outlooks for new biobased products. BioMonitor Deliverable 5.2 Report on the development of BioMAT and EFI-GTM for medium-term projections and simulations for bio-based products.

Morland, C., Schier, F., Janzen, N., Weimar, H. 2018. Supply and demand functions for global wood markets: Specification and plausibility testing of econometric models within the global forest sector. Forest Policy and Economics 92, 92–105

Buongiorno, J. 2015. Income and time dependence of forest product demand elasticities and implications for forecasting. Silva Fennica, 49, 5, 1395.

Learn more

BioMonitor project:

FAOSTAT. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Forestry Production and Trade.

Photo by Georg Eiermann on Unsplash