Excess stock brought in ahead of the original 1st April 2019 Brexit deadline, continuing uncertainty around Brexit and challenges posed by bark beetle attacks throughout central Europe all contributed to timber prices falling last year, says Nigel Buckley-Ryan, UK sales director of Södra Wood Ltd.
But there is now a risk of timber shortages and supply delays and so 2020 is likely to see prices going up again, he says.
Södra Wood Ltd is the UK distribution arm of Swedish-based timber firm Södra and a leading supplier of structural timber and engineered wood products.
Thanks to pre-Brexit stockpiling, the UK market was saturated in 2019, Mr Buckley-Ryan says. “This, coupled ongoing challenges posed by bark beetle attacks (and the need to fell and process affected wood as quickly as possible), led to over-supply and price reductions.”
This year, things will be tougher for buyers.
“The persistence of the bark beetle means that the yield of logs being harvested has fallen due to a deterioration of quality,” he says. “The market will likely feel the effect of this soon, particularly the market for C24 construction timber, which could be impacted by a tighter supply scenario.”
Bark beetle is a common and potentially devastating pest that tunnels under bark, cutting off the supply of food and water the tree needs to survive, eventually killing a tree in as little as two to four weeks. Bark beetle attacks on spruce throughout central Europe proliferated during summer 2019, with the situation becoming serious in several places in the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany. Damaged logs need to be harvested as soon as possible, which can have a knock-on effect on production.
“There’s no doubt that the timber industry is going through a challenging time at the moment,” Mr Buckley-Ryan says.