UK: softwood supply catching up to construction demand

Photo: Jonathan Borba/Unsplash

According to the latest market statement by Timber Trade Federation (TTF), more than 7 million m3 of timber and panel products were imported by the UK between January and July 2021.

This is nearly 2 million m3 above the same period in 2020, and half a million m3 above 2019 levels – the UK’s last ‘regular year’ before COVID-19 – which is about an 8% increase.

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

Timber prices, and structural softwood in particular, experienced rapid increases over the course of 2021, a trend explored in an earlier joint timber industry market statement by Confederation of Timber Industries & Swedish Wood in July.

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.

Nick Boulton, head of technical and trade of TTF, commented: “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.

“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.”

However, the UK timber market is not out of the woods yet, as shortages of heavy good vehicle (HGV) drivers, and in fuel and labour are likely to continue affecting the market in the coming months, said Boulton. Without transportation, the supply chain will not be able to meet demand.

But Boulton expressed confidence that “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.”

For a full statement of TTF’s market report, click over to TTF’s website.