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Wood Based Panel Industry in India
India's Forest Wealth
India was rich in its forest wealth having a huge land area under forests. Practically, all varieties of forest growth are found in India, ranging from tropical hardwood forests to high altitude coniferous forests and from deciduous to evergreen forests and Plantation but unfortunately the forest resources in India is depleting due to increase of population and other causes. Sound principles of forest policy, administration, timber production and conservation were introduced by an act of legislature in 1845, and ever since Indian forests are being managed on scientific and progressive lines. Large areas have abundance of some of the finest plywood timbers both for constructional and decorative plywood, Indian teak, Indian Rosewood and Padauk are world-renowned for their beauty of figure, grain and texture. Gurjan, Vellapine, Hollock and Hollong are only a few of the many Indian timbers used for making good commercial plywoods. Such continuous depletion of the natural forest resources of the country due to various consumption of solid wood, it was felt to conserve the natural resource forest by reconstituted wood products such as Plywood, Hardboard, Particleboard and Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF) to meet the rising demand of Wood from the general consumer, Railways, Defence, Furniture, Laminate manufacturers and the builders. At the same time also it is trying to meet the wood demand by Bamboo products which is alike to wood.

Instead of depending entirely on natural regeneration of forest resources the Government of India, NGO and some of our members have taken positive steps for Tree plantation on large areas in the various states with fast growing species so that can conserve the natural forest and meet the demand for wood and wood products of various domestic and international consumers.

Wood Based Panel Industry in India
Wood Panel products effect considerable saving of scarce wood as compared to Solid Timber. The basic types of Wood based panels are:-
  • Plywood
  • Particleboard
  • Hardboard and Medium Density Fiber board
Because of their versatility in application and efficiency in wood raw material utilization the wood panel products have to a great extent replaced solid wood in both structural and non-structural uses.
Plywood

The history of plywood industry in India is old. It is more than 75 years that this industry was started here on a very modest scale.It was in the year 1906-07 that plywood was imported in India for the first time-valued at Rs.32 lacs. Imports rose steadily and by 1924-25 it was worth Rs.90 lacs. Tea Industry in Assam, West Bengal and Kerala was steadily developing and it was thought that plywood industry in the form of Tea Chests production mainly for export should be developed. Accordingly two plywood factories were started in Assam in 1923-24 but their development was steady and slow and not phenomenal. These were the pioneers and the resourcefulness and courage shown by them in the early stages of growth of Plywood Industry was remarkable and the industry owes gratitude to these courageous entrepreneurs.

With the outbreak of Second World War, necessity of manufacturing tea chests locally was very much felt and Plywood Industry in form of Tea Chests Industry started on a large scale. It will not be exaggerated that Plywood Industry in India is a gift of Second World War. Now that tea chests must be produced, Forest Departments in different States started thinking in terms of finding suitable timber for manufacturing tea chests. Experiments were made at Forest Research Institute, Dehra Dun and it was found that plywood made from Indian timbers were as good as imported products and therefore advised forest entrepreneurs to set up modern factories in different States. Accordingly well equipped factories were started in different places viz. Sitapur, Bangalore, Baliapatam, Dandeli and Coochbehar. Some of these factories suffered setbacks in the post war years, as after cessation of war the vested interests tried to sabotage this industry by trying to restart imports of tea chest. Tariff Board enquiry was held and the Government imposed a lien on the importers to purchase Indian products equivalent to the quantity allowed to be imported. Slowly and slowly, the Government imposed total ban on imports and this thoughtful action of the Government encouraged the Indian entrepreneurs to modernize their plants and invest substantial capital in this industry.

After 1947-48, the industry resorted to diversification of its products and block boards, flush doors, commercial plywood, decorative plywood, marine and aircraft plywoods, produced in Indian factories came into the market which were second to none in the world in quality and diversity of its products.

Industrial Licensing is governed by the Industries (Developmental and Regulation) Act, 1951 under which the wood based industry was covered.

There was no restriction of putting up plywood Mill upto 1970. The only criteria was that the applicant was required to obtain an Industrial License which was being considered by  Ministry of Industry after consulting various Ministries including Ministry of Environment & Forests. Forest Ministry was being consulted for ascertaining sustainable raw material of Timber for a particular project; the Wood based Industry was more or less in Medium and Large scale.

The Wood based Industry was under Compulsory Industrial Licensing from 1988 whether a small scale unit or a Large/Medium unit, new undertaking or substantial expansion would require Industrial Licence.

During 1970 there was clear cut definition of Small Scale Sector and units having an investment of less than 7.5 lakhs in Plant and Equipment were covered under the definition of Small Scale Sector which would be registered with the respective State Director of Industries. At that particular stage some of the units with such investment got themselves transferred to small scale sectors.

Meanwhile there were modern technology and machinery equipped plywood units coming up in different places in India like North Eastern Zone.In 1997 the Government of India totally delicensed wood based industry as a result more than 2000 small-scale units coming up.

The potentialities of the industry can be judged from the many uses to which plywood can be put. Apart from tea chests plywood marine and aircraft plywood there are specific demand for the following articles from the consumers:-
  •   Shuttering Plywood
  •   Packaging Plywood
  •   Plywood drums
  •   Flush doors
  •   Commercial & Decorative Plywood
  •   Block Boards
  •   Moulded Plywood furnitures and chair seats
  •   Laminated picking sticks for cotton and jute textile industry
  •   Sliced decorative veneers of walnut, teak, rosewood etc.
  •   Compregnated wood veneers required for heavy chemical industry and electrified railways.
To assess the overall status of plywood industry in the country the production of plywood in India given here below for 50 years from 1951 to 2001 on 10 years basis.

Production of more than 2000 small scale units was not properly recorded only estimated every year. Due to Hon’ble Supreme Court Order on 12/12/1996 the production activities was totally suspended in Medium/Large scale unit particularly in North Eastern Region as a result the production reduced drastically from 1997 and still there is no improvement.

Particle Board
Particleboard is a reconstituted constructional panel particularly developed as a substitute for natural constructional wood and is made from low grade waste woods or from certain agricultural ligneous wastes. In that respect particleboard assumes one of the greatest importance in the wood panel products industry from the point of view of conservation of scarce forest resources in a country.

In India the first Particleboard plant was set up in late 1950’s at Sitapur in Uttar Pradesh. There are presently about 12 Wood based and agriculture ligneous waste based Particleboard units in India.

Hardboard and Medium Density Fiber Board (MDF)

Fiberboard is a board encompassing sheet materials of widely varying diversities manufactured from refined or partially refined wood fibers or other vegetable fibers. Bonding agents and other materials may be incorporated in the manufacture to increase strength, resistance to moisture, fire or decay.

The first Fiber board (Hardboard) Industry was established in India during late 1950’s and the first Medium Density Fiber board plant was set up in India about 20 years back.