Suppliers say timber crisis is easing

More than 3.32 million cubic meters of wood and panels were imported in the third quarter of 2021, as the market strikes a better balance between supply and demand after nearly a year of record imports.

Timber Trade Federation (TTF) statistics show import levels are more than 23% higher than in Q3 2020 – and more than 10% higher than when last quarter volumes exceeded the three million cubic meters, in 2007.

Softwood lumber is imported in larger quantities from a wider range of countries in the last quarter, with Latvia, Finland and Germany growing to 61% (1.1 million m3) of the 1.8 million m3 of softwoods imported in Q3 2021.

Other wood products, including hardwood, plywood, particle board, OSB and MDF, also saw a sharp increase in the third quarter of 2021 compared to the previous year.

As the supply of some products continues to be under pressure, against a backdrop of sustained demand and logistical challenges, the entire timber supply chain has proven to be resilient, with the timber industry in a position force to meet demand in 2022, insisted the federation.

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TTF Technical and Trade Policy Officer Nick Boulton said: “These latest statistics continue to reflect the incredible demand for wood products seen over the past year, which has helped the UK to surpass previous import records.

“After this record period, inventory levels have returned to pre-pandemic levels and the logistics supply chain is struggling to find enough space for additional volume – so much so that in Sweden we let’s see some sawmills reducing their overall production volumes.

“However, while we can see stock levels returning, the UK market is clearly in a different place than it was two years ago, with shortages of truck drivers, delays in ports and Brexit changes likely to continue to impact the market in the months to come.

“Despite these challenges, the past 21 months have proven that the wood supply chain is resilient. We are in a strong position to meet the growing demand for sustainable, low-carbon building materials, both now and in the future.

“As a low-carbon, low-energy building material, wood has the potential to become the material of choice for climate-conscious architects, engineers, developers and planners in the UK. With the period of greatest tension between supply and demand probably behind us, we can expect a return to more ‘regular’ activity in 2022. “

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