Mandela Buurt

Softwood timber supplies for the UK catch up but other problems persist

More than seven million m3 of timber and panel products were imported into the UK from January through to July 2021, according to the latest Timber Trade Federation (TTF) Market Statement.

This is almost two million m3 more than the same period in 2020, and half a million m3 above levels seen in 2019, which was the UKs last ‘regular year’ before COVID-19. This is about an 8% increase.

These record-breaking volumes of imports reflect high demand for timber products with a strong RM&I sector and a resurgent private housing market having kept supply on allocation.

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Timber prices, and structural softwood in particular, experienced rapid increases over the course of 2021. These latest TTF statistics show the average price of sawn and planed softwood in May, June and July rose by 55%, 65% and 88% respectively over their corresponding months in 2020.

“After a year of record production and nine months of near record structural softwood imports it is highly likely the UK is at a point where there is sufficient volume of wood at UK ports and in the UK timber supply chain to satisfy construction demand,” Nick Boulton, TTF head of technical and trade, said.

“With Q3 now behind us, which we viewed as a real pressure point this year between supply and demand for timber products, we expect that over the coming months we will find there is greater stability within the UK market.

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“However, we are not yet out the woods as any return to ‘regular’ patterns within the UK market will be difficult amidst the ongoing shortage of HGV drivers, and in fuel and labour, which are likely to continue to impact the market in the coming months.

Mr Boulton said that these shortages are of high concern to the timber supply chain as while there may now be enough timber in the UK to meet demand it does little good to anyone when there are no means to transport stock from ports to warehouses or customers.

“Despite these challenges, we are confident the timber supply chain can continue to rise to meet the growing demand for sustainable, low-carbon construction materials we are seeing in the market – as it has done so for the past 20 months,” he said.

“The UK timber supply chain has proven to be remarkedly resilient amidst an ongoing series of intense global and local pressures which have rippled out since the pandemic, as evidenced through the impressive import volumes reached in 2021.”

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