Timber Trade Federation: UK timber supply chain stabilising

Photo: Em M/Unsplash

After a year of near-record imports, the UK timber industry is likely to find itself entering a period of greater stability in 2022, according to the Timber Trade Federation (TTF).

The latest TTF statistics show the volume of timber imported between January and October 2021 to be 28% higher than the same period in 2020, reaching a total of 10.3 million m3 in the year to date.

Yet even as this milestone is reached, these statistics reveal a significant shift in timber import patterns with volumes 16% lower in October 2021 than in the corresponding month in 2020. This marks the first month in 2021 where the volume of timber imported was below its corresponding level from 2020, and the end of 15 months of continual growth in UK imports of timber and panel products.

Softwood import volumes reflected these changes with just 557,000m3 entering the UK in October 2021, which is close to the average volume of softwood imports seen between 2015 to 2018, reaching 559,000m3.

These shifts seen in the timber industry’s import patterns can likely be attributed to a return to more regular demand for new housing and repairs, maintenance and improvement (RM&I) of buildings seen in Q4 2021.

With stocks having been replenished throughout the supply chain, the TTF is seeing price pressure reducing and import volumes returning to more normal, stabilised parameters.  

This suggests an end to some of the market disruption they saw last year where the industry was working to ensure high construction demand was met. Given the increasing demand for low-carbon construction products to help build in a climate crisis, the TTF also expects that timber will remain an essential sector to building back better in 2022.

However, the market is still some way off normality as Brexit, heavy goods vehicle (HGV) driver shortages, COVID-19 disruption as well as labour availability will continue to affect supply and demand.

The full range of TTF statistics can be viewed via their website here.