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Timber shortages ‘set to worsen’ in Q3

Image: Dreamstime/Bernhard Lux

Timber shortages will worsen in the third quarter of this year, as the balance between supply and demand tightens further.

That’s the warning from the Timber Trade Federation (TTF), following communication from Sweden, which supplies almost half of the structural wood used in the UK.

Sweden’s stock levels currently sit at their lowest level in over 20 years, despite record production from the Swedish sawmill industry.

In the second quarter of 2021, almost all wood arriving in the UK was presold to customers and despite strict allocations, most buyers are already unable to purchase all the timber they want for their business.

The TTF urged businesses in the timber frame and trussed rafter sectors to communicate with suppliers regularly and communicate long lead times and price rises to clients early. It also encouraged businesses to make sure orders are being placed well ahead of time and to seek earlier agreement of orders with clients to reflect longer lead times.

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 goods 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.”

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