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End of timber shortages in sight

Near record-breaking softwood timber imports have replenished stocks to a level needed to meet the demand surge from construction.

This brings the prospect of an easing in supply bottlenecks once ongoing delivery issues from a shortage of HGV drivers are resolved.

According to the Timber Trades Federation more than 7 million m3 of timber and panel products were imported by the UK between January and July.

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

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

But he warned: “We are not yet out the woods as any return to ‘regular’ patterns within the UK market will be difficult amid the ongoing shortage of HGV drivers, and in fuel and labour, which are likely to continue to impact the market in the coming months.

“These shortages are of high concern to the timber supply chain as while there may now be enough timber in the UK to meet demand it does little good to anyone when there are no means to transport stock from ports to warehouses or customers.”

Also there is still no sign of any easing of sky-high timber prices for structural softwood in particular.

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.