Timber shortages set to get worse

The timber industry has issued a warning that UK shortages are about to get worse later this summer.

The Timber Trade Federation (TTF) says that the balance between supply and demand is likely to tighten in the third quarter of 2021.

This announcement comes following recent communications from Sweden, who supply almost half of the structural wood that is used in the UK, that current stock levels there are at their lowest for more than 20 years – despite record levels of production from the Swedish sawmill industry.

The market is already such that any wood coming into the UK from Sweden has already been sold to customers. Despite strict allocations, most buyers are already unable to purchase all the timber they want for their business.

Nick Boulton, TTF technical and trade manager 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 goods vehicles available to get the wood out of UK ports and into UK customers yards”.

“Sawmills and wood production facilities in Sweden and other European countries start to close for essential summer maintenance from July, and this will greatly reduce the available supply of structural wood for the UK”.

He continued to say: “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 gets worse”.

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

“It is 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 suppliers, as the situation develops over the coming months.
  • Communicate early with 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 placed well ahead of time and plan 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.
  • Try to work collaboratively with suppliers and be as flexible as possible with specifications and quantities required.