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Timber imports stabilise

27 Sep 23 After a volatile couple of years, timber imports to the UK appear to be stabilising.

Trade statistics from Timber Development UK (TDUK) for the first half of 2023 point to the market becoming less volatile.

Softwood imports from January to June 2023 stood at 3,217,000 m3, similar to the pre-covid levels seen in 2019.

Imports of softwoods to the UK in H1 2023 were down just 5% on the first half of 2022. Last year, first half imports were down 17% compared to the previous year and the first half of  2021 saw softwood imports up 49%.

After reaching a record high in 2022, hardwood imports have seen limited variation in 2023, with volumes sitting between 37,000 m3 and 45,000 m3 each month.

This stability has been echoed in the panel sector, where there has been monthly volume consistency in plywood, MDF and OSB categories.

Overall volumes in H1 2023 were 7% lower than H1 2022, although June imports were 2% higher than the previous year.

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TDUK head of technical and trade Nick Boulton said: “The first six months of 2023 closely resemble the patterns seen pre-2020, suggesting stability has finally returned to the market.

“Brexit, covid-19, and the Russia-Ukraine war created a perfect storm for our industry, with huge import fluctuations seen in 2020, 2021 and 2022. Barring another major market shock, we are unlikely to see these dramatic peaks and troughs return anytime soon.

“Though import stability has returned, the market situation in the UK remains tricky, with both inflation and interest rates remaining high.

“For this reason, the Construction Products Association has predicted a slowdown in crucial private housing and RMI sectors, which is likely to impact timber imports in Q3 and Q4.

“We must also be aware that the loss of Russian wood to the European market and the effects of climate change will significantly tighten wood supply in the coming years, making the efficient and effective use of wood resources an increasing priority.”

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