UK: increase in timber imports, but prices and construction output still affected by shortages

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Seven months into 2021 and volumes of timber and panels imported by the UK were nearly 2 million m³ higher than the first seven months of 2020, according to statistics released by the Timber Trade Federation (TTF).

This growth has largely been driven by softwood imports, up by 43.6% compared to the same period in 2020. Most product categories have seen an increase, with hardwood imports also up by 26%.

The statistics also indicate that supply and demand imbalances are continuing to influence timber prices, with softwood, hardwood and plywood all increasing in value over the last few months.

Evidence is beginning to suggest that the construction market is being severely constrained by the supply of skilled labour and materials.

Recent Construction Products Association (CPA) statistics show reduced construction output as the UK head into autumn largely due to the effects of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) shortages, fuel shortages and port congestion.

While this can hardly be seen as positive, reduced demand will soften the significant price rises TTF have seen in the structural timber sector over the past three quarters.

These constraints on construction output are set to continue as they head into 2022, and this will likely mean demand for timber beginning to return to more ‘normal’ levels.

With post-lockdown spending habits changing, and as government financial support is largely withdrawn, some shifts in the private housing and repair, maintenance and improvement (RM&I) markets have long been forecasted.