UK softwood market quietens down

27 July 2017

The UK softwood market quietened down as the trade moved in to July tempered by the political outfall from the general election, Brexit uncertainty and a sombre aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy.

Questions regarding construction designs, refurbishment and flammability on high-rise and public buildings, to include the reversal of cladding fixes (albeit metal and fibre rather than wood-based) has impacted on sections of the construction industry.

Specification, product performance and accreditation are now taking centre stage and public opinion is against low-cost choices in favour of ‘fit for purpose’. This mood will undoubtedly dictate that more stringent tests are carried out on building materials, and from a fire resisting perspective, wood-based productstreated with exterior and interior retardants might find favour in future markets. Specifying wood products will be subject to cast iron guarantees of performance and designers will need a high level of factual guidance from the industry. With the recent successes in the CLT high-rise market there is little doubt that fire-preventing designs will be the primary consideration in the product’s future.

In the softwood market generally, there have been some excess volumes of C24 carcassing circulating from both landed stock and inventories held at some Swedish mills. Overall, production appears to be under control and most European markets are lively and mills are still raising prices. The UK is lagging behind other markets (once again) in achieving replacement prices of imported softwood, and the situation is being additionally accentuated by the fragile and volatile value of sterling. There is still a large gap between imported and home produced softwood prices which shows no sign of closing in the near future, this does create a ‘drag-factor’ on imported products.

With the holiday period about to start and many of the sawmills getting ready to close for summer maintenance it is likely that stock gaps will appear in August and buyers are urged to ensure they have suitable stocks ready to draw from. Most mills are now outsold through to September.