Timber industry warns of major shortages in Q3 2021

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The Timber Trade Federation (TTF) has warned of major challenges ahead for timber users in Q3 2021, as the balance between supply and demand continues to tighten

Recent communications from Sweden, who supply almost half of the structural wood that is used in the UK, have warned that current stock levels are at their lowest in over 20 years – despite record levels of production from the Swedish sawmill industry.

The supply and demand balance for structural wood for Q2 2021 means that almost all wood arriving in the UK has been presold to customers. Despite strict allocations, most buyers are already unable to purchase all the timber they want for their business.

‘Q3 will be the most difficult part of the year for timber shortages’

TTF technical and trade manager, Nick Boulton, said: “We have great respect for our Swedish partners, who have consistently worked throughout the pandemic to meet UK wood needs; as they have done for decades. This means we need to take their statement extremely seriously.

“The already tight balance between supply and demand is already being made worse because there are insufficient heavy good vehicles available to get the wood out of UK ports and into UK customers yards.

“As we enter July, sawmills and wood production facilities in Sweden and other European countries start to close for essential summer maintenance, and this will significantly reduce the available supply of structural wood for the UK.

“Usually during the summer shutdown period there is a significant reliance on Swedish sawmill stocks. However, if these stocks are now at their lowest level for 20 years there will not be sufficient supply to satisfy UK structural wood demand in Q3.

“Although prices have risen substantially from an artificially-low point towards the end of 2019, they have now exceeded the levels of 2018, and are set to increase further as the current supply situation significantly worsens.

“We have been warning since the beginning of the year that we believed Q3 would be the most difficult part of the year, and there is now sufficient information to support this assessment.

“It’s important to note that timber is not alone in this scenario. As the Construction Leadership Council has made clear, demand has outpaced supply across the board, which is affecting the availability of nearly all construction products.”

TTF is now urging manufacturers and those in the timber frame and trussed rafter sectors to consider the following actions:

  • Regularly communicate with your suppliers, as the situation develops over coming months
  • You should communicate early with your clients of any potential price rises, and long lead times, using the information produced by the TTF where necessary in these discussions
  • Make sure orders are being placed well ahead of time and planning for any potential cost increases when setting out the cost of a project. Where possible seek earlier agreement of orders with clients to reflect longer lead times
  • Aim to work collaboratively with your suppliers and be as flexible as possible with specifications and quantities required to alleviate timber shortages.

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