UK softwood market prospects to improve if Brexit deal struck

11 March 2019

Surprisingly positive UK softwood forecasts were shared at the Timber Trade Federation’s (TTF) UK Softwood Conference last week.

The conference, attended by up to 200 industry representatives, heard that the TTF’s UK softwood import volume and softwood consumption forecasts were based on the UK striking a Brexit deal with the EU.

Nick Moore, of Timber Trends, said the TTF was forecasting a 1.7% rise in UK softwood imports this year to 6,675 million m3, with consumption moving up 2.7% to 10.27 million m3.

“2019 will in fact return to the best year the industry has had since the dramatic times of the recession,” said Mr Moore. “This is surprising given the current [Brexit] situation.”

However, Mr Moore said a no-deal Brexit or a delay to the Brexit process would negatively impact the forecasts.

Mr Moore said the TTF’s forecasts mirrored other forecasts, citing a predicted 2.4% growth in housebuilding starts in 2019 and the UK Treasury’s GDP forecast for 1.4% growth.

“There is clear consistency between the various forecast numbers for 2019,” added Mr Moore.

The conference also heard that UK softwood production is forecast to grow to 3.80 million m3 in 2019, a 4.1% rise.

This follows a 2018 which saw UK softwood imports rise to £1.4bn, despite a 2.8% reduction in volumes to 6.564 million m3 and a 2% decrease in UK softwood production to 3.65 million m3 (2017: 3.73 million m3).

Speaker Olle Berg, market director of Setra, said the global wood consumption outlook was “good” with the market “well-balanced”.

He did not envisage any major markets crises, even considering Brexit and other global factors.

“Are we looking at the new 2007?” said Mr Berg. “I do not think so because the situation was different in 2007.”

And Mr Berg also said UK new housing start figures were looking “quite nice” with good activity and underlying demand, with starts looking to break through the 200,000 milestone in 2019.

“We look at the UK as a sound market in the coming years.”

(A full report on the UK Softwood Conference will appear in the April issue of TTJ)

TTF MD David Hopkins opens the UK Softwood Conference