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UK Timber Industry: materials shortage is still a real issue 

The current worldwide Timber shortage could last well into the later months of 2021. With many calling it the ‘wood crisis’.

With factors such as the shipping container issues, and the high demand in the US house building. Sawmills have been unable to rebuild stock levels, whilst demand remains high. For many merchants and manufacturers, this has meant high prices and longer lead times. But, it’s not only the timber industry. The whole of the sector is experiencing shortages, including steel.

Timber importation levels are still high. Yet, the surge in the demand is contributing to the shortage. As high stock levels, enjoyed in previous years, have not been rebuilt since the start of the pandemic. Meaning most timber stock is ordered and paid for before it enters the UK.

 

Factors affecting the Timber Shortage 

The pandemic caused a shift in focus to home improvements and projects. (Link to first timber shortage blog). However, there are other factors seriously affecting the timber shortage in the UK. Including housing, construction, and Brexit.

 

Housing and Construction

The value of construction projects in April 2021, in the UK, was 30% higher than the same period last year. Companies are simply playing catch up because the building was halted during lockdowns. The EU and US are also increasing their timber house frame usage. Putting further strain on the timber industry here in the UK.

 

Brexit 

New paperwork and plant health requirements are providing extra hurdles to importing in the UK. With 80% of softwood used in Britain’s building coming from EU countries. This rises to 90% in new-build housing. These new requirements are contributing to delays.

 

 

What is the impact?

 

Stock levels remain low 

The UK could be facing a further 6 months of timber shortage and some suggesting the situation could worsen. Sawmills around the world are unable to rebuild stock levels because of the high demand. Swedish sawmills have seen their stock run down to its lowest levels in 20 years. With the mills set to shut down for repairs in June/July, supply is set to tighten. Even though products are available to order, because of low stocks the lead times are getting longer.

With record-high imports in 2021. This meant at the end of 2020, there was no unsold timber present in the UK. Unfortunately, UK-grown timber supplies are of an insufficient level to replace imported timber. Which are needed for the UK construction industry.

 

Prices remain high 

Countries outside of the UK are willing to pay more for timber. This has resulted in a heightened perception of the value of the raw material. Inflation happening within the industry has made quoting accurate prices for work difficult. Plus some EU countries have banned log exports, creating an even smaller import potential.

 

Planning ahead is vital 

Builders merchants and others within the industry have significantly changed their purchasing patterns. Turning to long-term planning to ensure they get their stock.

 

Demand is set to only grow 

The UK Government has emphasised reviving the construction sector. Only increasing the demand for timber further.

Demand for timber has also increased partly because of its carbon storage potential. Meaning this product, if acquired sustainably and legally, is good for the environment. As timber products lock approximately 1 ton of CO2 per 1 m3 of wood.

 

Get in touch to discuss the UK timber shortage further at hello@thinkthimber.co.uk

 

 

Resources used:

The Construction Index 

Construction Enquirer 

Pro Builder Mag 

Equal Ocean 

Forest Machine Magazine 

Metä Wood