Timber import patterns shifted rapidly to meet high demand

Latest News Mon, Nov 8, 2021 8:04 AM

Demand for timber and panel products during the summer months of 2021 was at record levels with import volumes over 3.2 million m3 in these three months alone.

August became the third consecutive month when import volumes exceeded one million m3, with softwood imports surging to meet the uplift in construction demand.

Softwood imports in June, July and August 2021 were 33% higher than the same months in 2020, when demand for softwood began to recover during the first lockdown.

A broader spread of countries have also been supplying this softwood to the UK in the last three months as compared to the same period in 2020.

Countries such as Latvia have registered percentage increase of 53% (+175,000m m3), Germany by 93% (+120,000 m3), and Canada by 195% (+12,000 m3) in their softwood import volumes.

Hardwood imports have also risen by 30% with substantially higher volumes arriving from the Baltics, Croatia and Hungary and each registering very high percentage growth rates.

However, the pattern of supply of softwood plywood have seen the most radical change, with an increase in supply from China of 372% (29,800 m3).

David Hopkins, CEO of the Timber Trade Federation (TTF), said: “The timber industry has gone through a period of unprecedented demand through summer as people invest in home improvements and maintenance.

“The changing trade patterns seen here show a resilient and innovative timber supply chain that is capable of harnessing new markets to satisfy the high domestic demand seen throughout the summer.

“As mentioned in a recent market statement, we expect demand to slow further in Q4 and in the new year as colder weather and post-Covid restriction spending habits ease demand for RM&I and private housing.

“It is likely however, that demand for timber will remain strong as the government looks to achieve climate targets, particularly as they emerge from COP26 with firm international commitments.

“Timber is essential to building low-carbon in the UK, and this is reflected in the recent Net-Zero Strategy with the Government endorsing a policy plan to increase the use of wood in construction.”

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