UK: Timber imports continue strong market recovery

(Photo: Timber Trade Federation)

The Timber Trade Federation’s (TTF) monthly report reveals total import volumes for main timber and panel products were 21% higher in October 2020 compared to October 2019 levels, as import volumes in the month soared above the 1 million m3 mark.

However, even this strong performance cannot compensate for the loss of import volume in Q2, meaning the ten months to October 2020 is still 11% below compared to the same time last year. Solid wood imports were 8% below the same period in 2019 and panel product imports were 15% lower.

The main drivers of growth in the early autumn were oriented strand boards (OSB) and softwood imports, supported by higher volumes of plywood and medium-density fibreboards (MDF) compared to the same period in 2019.

Collectively, these four products have led to a 15% (377,000 m3) increase in the latest three months (August to October 2020) for which data is available.

Softwood import volumes topped over 700,000 m3 in October 2020, the highest October volume since 2003. The main contributors were Sweden and Latvia, with Germany and Russia also exporting more to the UK in the month compared to October 2019.

OSB imports in October 2020 were 54,000 m3, the highest in the ten months to October, and a 68% increase from the volumes seen in October 2019 (32,000 m3).

MDF imports continued a steady increase, reaching its highest monthly total in 2020 with 77,000 m3 and an 18% increase from October 2019 (65,000 m3).

Plywood imports continued to show a strong recovery reaching triple figures for the second consecutive month with 111,000 m3 in October 2020, slightly bettering the previous year’s imports (October 2019, 107,000 m3.)

“This year has seen demand increase considerably across all products, while supply chains have been severely disrupted as a result of the COVID pandemic, so it is good to see imports rebound so strongly. From talking to our members, we expect the statistics for the last two months of 2020 to continue to show this trend and end the year only slightly below 2019 imports, which would be a remarkable achievement given the circumstances,” said David Hopkins, chief executive officer of TTF.

“However, despite this comeback in supply, we must reiterate that the supply situation remains tight with suppliers keeping most customers on allocation until further notice. These statistics are a positive sign, but we have some way to go before balancing the market demand.”