ACIMALL is the Italian woodworking machinery and tools manufacturers’ association. They publish annual reports on the state of the Italian woodworking machinery industry. As a high percentage of machinery imported to Australia is Italian, the state of their industry is worth looking at.

ACIMALL reports another positive year for the Italian wood technology industry, although the trend survey for the last quarter arises some questions that should be taken into consideration. The organisation also comments that “The barometer for woodworking and furniture industry machinery and plants keeps pointing to nice weather. We used the same expression at the end of 2017, which closed with 11.6 percent growth over 2016, and we are repeating it this year to tell you about an excellent 9.5 percent growth recorded by production in the past twelve months compared to 2017. All economic variables analysed by the Studies office of Acimall, the Confindustria association that represents industry companies, indicate that 2018 was another positive year.”

Production reached 2.487 billion euro (resulting into the 9.5 growth mentioned above, from 2.27 billion in 2017) and export increased (1.694 billion euro, up by 6.5 percent). Another sign that the Italian industry using technology for wood and wood-based materials is going through a good season comes from import, at 239 million-euro, 27.9 percent more than 187 million in 2017. The trade balance is also positive (1.455 billion euro, plus 3.8 percent). In general, ACIMALL reports that the woodworking machinery industry closed another year of consolidation, certainly supported by government incentives to investments in production technology and Industry 4.0.

Optimism seemed to fade out partially in the final quarter 2018, with figures indicating a slight slowdown in orders of Italian equipment and technology. The Italian market was still lively, scoring an excellent 17.9 percent growth over Q4 2017, but this performance was offset by foreign orders decreasing by 13.6 percent, which means that the grand total for the October-December 2018 period is minus 3.2 percent. So, while Italy still shows a plus sign, the increasing uncertainty on the international scenario (Brexit and US-China trade relations above all) seems to be suggesting more caution to international investors.

And what about the future? As already mentioned, there are plenty of hints that feed worries for short-term developments. Uncertainty dominates the domestic market after the reduction of fiscal incentives for Industry 4.0 initiatives introduced in the 2019 Budget Law, combined with the reduction of tax credit on R&D investments and the elimination of the super-amortization mechanism. Export markets are subject to the outcomes of Brexit and China-US trade wars. So, summing up, 6 percent of the sample believe in the further expansion of the domestic market, while 63 percent expect substantial stability and 31 percent shrinking business (the balance is negative at minus 25). On the export side, 19 percent are optimistic, 18 percent pessimistic and 63 percent forecast stability.