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Why Are There Timber Shortages In The UK?

Why Are There Timber Shortages In The UK?

Is there a timber shortage in the UK?

Yes. There are severe timber and sheet material shortages in the UK right now. There are many contributing factors to the timber shortage and the subsequent price increases that we are currently experiencing.

This isn’t a short-term problem, there are concerns that this will continue well into 2022.  There are supply shortages throughout the construction industry currently. Not only are timber and sheet materials affected but there are now problems sourcing cement and many other products vital to the building sector.

Timber merchants and building material suppliers have forewarned that as construction demand rises - timber shortages will worsen.

Why is there a timber shortage in the UK?

There are several different elements contributing to the timber shortages, we have broken them down below to give a better overview of the current climate.

Transport shortages / Shipping costs

Globally sawn timber prices have surged due to the ongoing supply chain disruptions as a result of the reduced availability of shipping containers, and enormous global demand. The price for a shipping container of goods from China to the U.S. and European ports has hovered near record highs for several months now, with no signs of easing. The rates are now 50% higher than last year. Online shopping during the pandemic has fuelled the increase in rates. Typically around 80% of the world’s goods are transported by shipping lines. Now an unprecedented shortage of shipping containers is fuelling the price increases and delaying shipping times.

Brexit

The introduction of new regulations now that we have left the EU have made things increasingly difficult for the timber sector. The beginning of the year saw some serious customs clearance delays at ports such as Felixstowe, this combined with more paperwork for road haulage businesses has added significant costs to suppliers, which ultimately are passed on to the customer. The new post-brexit era has added not only more costs but complexity too. 


 

COVID

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic a large portion of Sawmills in Europe were temporarily shut. Lockdown in the UK saw a huge surge in demand for timber and sheet materials for DIY and Garden projects; this had a knock-on effect on supplies throughout the UK’s construction sector.

Demand for structural timber, CLS, decking and much more grew to insatiable levels, resulting in a market that is typically well-stocked unable to replenish its stocks quick enough. There has been no down time for the building trade either, which has put even more pressure on sawmills and importers to provide a faster turnaround.


Global Demand

It’s no surprise that the three biggest global markets are China, America and Russia.

China is in fact the world’s biggest importer of softwood and hardwood logs, half of its supply is derived entirely from imports. Factors like flooding and the implementation of progressively stricter forest protection measures have hit China hard.

Following the recent announcement that Russia will be looking to ban exports of softwood and hardwood logs, China has been looking to Europe for further supply.  With Russia being the world’s largest exporter, its proposed export restrictions are significantly impacting the global timber market.

In North America the first pandemic lockdown saw the closure of half of Canada’s sawmills and one third of US sawmills. Unsurprisingly this very quickly put a stop to American and Canadian timber exports to the global market. With the US timber industry suffering an estimated $1.1 billion loss in 2020. As a result of this timber imports are now at the highest level in 15 years.

Meanwhile Sweden managed to maintain its production and in some instances increased it. Which has resulted in Europe becoming the global leader in exports of sawn softwood.

Despite the increase in production Sweden has communicated that current stock levels are at the lowest they’ve ever been in the last 20 years regardless of record levels of production. The rising prices and insatiable demand for timber has created a sellers market. With timber now being sold to the highest bidder, we’ll give you three guesses on who that might be.


How can I order the products I need with all of these shortages in place?

All we can recommend is ordering your timber as early as possible as these shortages are showing no signs of slowing down and will only get worse as we move into the Summer months. Plan ahead and be prepared for price increases. We will do all that we can to remain competitive in the midst of these turbulent times but there will be delayed supply and ultimately prices may increase.