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Prioritize reforestation,the recycling of wood in industrialactivities and market expansion - INTERVIEW WITH PAOLO FANTONI,
trade associations

06 October 2010

Prioritize reforestation,the recycling of wood in industrialactivities and market expansion - INTERVIEW WITH PAOLO FANTONI,

While on my way to Osoppo/Udine to meet the current President of Asso - panelli, Paolo Fantoni (who is also Managing Director of the same industrial group) I started thinking about everything that has happened in the industry over the past 30 years.
In Italy, these last three decades not have been marked by a strong policy of reforestation, promotion and development of the use of wood.
Just think that, in Italy, for the production of plywood alone (in 2009 production accounted for approximately 430,000 cubic metres), approximately 1,200.000 cubic metres of “cut” trunks are required, involving a surface area of approximately 130.000 hectares, unfortunately lacking in Italy.
Everyone knows that Italy has a dearth of wood supplies and that, in general, industrialists source supplies from abroad.
In view of the situation, I was interested in hearing Mr. Fantoni’s views on the subject in the hope that “with the collaboration of all those active in the industry, something can and must change”.

During our interview, this is what Mr. Fantoni told me: “My prime objective with the Federation is to represent, as best as is possible, the demands of our sector during this critical period, by attempting to focus on the few favourable elements that exist in this present scenario, such as, for example, the fairly favourable euro/dollar exchange rate.
Furthermore, a market that needs to be targeted, in a strategic, rather than tactical manner, is that of the Mediterranean basin which offers interesting prospects for expansion thanks to the growth of the building industry and the strong need to purchase wood and components for furniture.
One of the most burning issues at this time is the problem regarding the lack of recycled wood which is threatening the future of panel manufacturers. The cultivation of poplars now only accounts for 85,000 hectares, with a considerable decrease compared to ten years ago.
Therefore, as far as the institutions are concerned, my main task will be to promote initiatives targeted at the use of wood in the high value-added wood-furniture industry, thus guaranteeing sufficient raw material for businesses in the sector.
In regard to this, relationships have already been established both on a local level with the regional councillors for agriculture in the northern regions and on a national level, with a request to meet the Minister for agriculture, Galan, to ask for an amendment to the PAC (Community Agricultural Policy) regulations in favour of the “non-food” sector.
Arousing public awareness about these issues is extremely important and Assopannelli will address the matter with widespread communication activities using a number of different tools and initiatives.
Another sector that deserves to be analysed in-depth – the newly elected President, Paolo Fantoni, then went on to conclude- is that of housing constructed in accordance with the criteria of eco-compatibility and eco-sustainability.
The increase in public awareness regarding environmental issues have been fostered by the reconstruction of the areas hit by the earthquake in Abruzzo and represent a real challenge for the Association which, in this context, will be able to play a leading role”.
Mr. Fantoni, the sector is up in arms about the new wood biomass plant (designed to burn 14,000 tonnes of wood rejects from recycling) soon to become operative in the province of Cremona which, undoubtedly will deplete the amount of timber available for the wood panel industry.

What do you thinks about this absurd situation?

Answer:”The new plant runs the risk of bringing the wood-based panel industry to its knees, because it would mean that instead of being used for industrial purposes, wood would be used as a source of energy.
The ensuing decrease of recycled wood would cause a crisis in the chipboard panel industry with the inevitable increase in prices and a weakening of the competitiveness of the Italian industries on foreign markets.
It is, therefore, imperative, that the public is informed about this. Furthermore, we must consider that the value added of recycled wood in the wood industry is 10 times higher than that used in a waste to energy plant; while the incidence of occupation is 25 times higher.
Furthermore, the Dresden resolution – the brain child of the most recent EPF assembly – asks for the elimination of incentives to the manufacturers of biomass energy (95% of these plants use recycled wood), one of the reasons for the current crisis in the wood market.
As already proposed by environmentalists, the resolution suggests recycled wood as the first phase and waste to energy as the last phase of the life cycle of wood.
We therefore ask that priority is given to wood for production purposes rather than its exploitation for energy and we invite the Provincial and Municipal Administrations to review their project for the construction of a wood plant”. Last month, the new Board of Directors of Assopannelli met to define the guidelines of the Association and the single product categories.
The members of the Board of Directors include Paolo Fantoni (Chipboard Group), Giuseppe Invernizzi (Plywood Group), Massimo Massoni (Laminboard Group) and Fabio Simonella (Semi-worked), in addition to members elected by the President: Giorgio Agnoletti, Nicoletta Azzi, Pietro Bellotti, Fabrizio Bergamo, Enrico Bonzano, Luciano Caspani and Nicola Reni.
The lines of action on which the Assembly deliberated in terms of future priorities for the Association are:

• identification of a common agricultural policy that rewards the “non-food” rather than the “food” sector. This should be drafted and submitted,as soon as possible (by 5 November),to the EU in order to amend the present PAC;
• the reinstatement of the “components” work group within the federation, one of whose most pressing tasks will be to analyse the needs of its members in order to optimize logistics by opening new frontiers in the use of rail transport that is functional for use by the industry:
• the development of initiatives aimed at the research and promotion of the availability of raw wood material, with particular emphasis on the poplar-growing sector;
• the assessment of new opportunities in the field of green-building; • a new focus on the national and transnational fair-trade policy, in particular, with regard to the Mediterranean basis, whose involvement in the building sector holds enormous promise for the future;
• the development of a more impact-making communication campaign vis-a-vis the mass-media and public opinion, above all, with regard to problems such as the scarcity of raw materials and the issue of bio-mass stations.
Other aspects that need to be dealt with over the next three years concern monitoring of the amendment of the IPPC directive and formal recognition, on an institutional level, of the climatic advantages inherent in wood as well as the fostering of mutual trust within the industry that minimizes rejects and recycles them both for new production cycles as well as for the production of heat energy.
Therefore, the program proposed by the new President of Assopanelli is extremely welcome and I hope that every - thing that has been said will be implemented and achieve the recognition that it deserves.