UK timber imports increase dramatically15 January 2014
The full scale of the unexpected and dramatic turnaround in UK timber product imports has been laid out in the Timber Trade Federation’s (TTF) latest statistics bulletin.
From a position at the end of last August, when 2013 cumulative timber product import volumes were down by 2% (more than 100,000m3) compared to 2012, the TTF said the situation had reversed because of "dramatic" growth in September and October, with cumulative volumes nearly 5% higher (317,000m3) by the end of October.
September's volumes (for all main timber and panel products) were up by 34.5%. Volumes for both months were the best for five years.
And although the TTF said two months was insufficient time to draw firm conclusions about the extent of the import recovery, it said such extraordinary figures beg the question: have the good times returned to the UK timber market?
Solid wood imports were up by 2.6% for the 10 months to October, compared to 2012, while panel products were 9.7% higher.
Sweden and Germany contributed substantially to the increased softwood volumes in September and October, with Sweden accounting for nearly a half of the 260,000m3 increase in volume for the two months. Other countries also boosted their volumes, with Latvia gaining the largest percentage growth at nearly 200%.
Cumulative 2013 softwood volumes were up by 5.5%, with the value of sawn softwood up 6.6% and planed goods up by 3.7%. Total softwood import values were up by about £41m for January-October.
Plywood product imports also grew strongly in the autumn, with hardwood ply registering a spike in October as a result of increases from Asian supplier countries. Chinese volumes more than doubled for the month, with Malaysia and Indonesia also posting growth.
This growth followed a trend of declining hardwood ply imports from Asia and Central and South America following the introduction of the EU Timber Regulation in March 2013. Cumulative hardwood ply volumes stood at 755,000m3 by the end of October, 0.2% up on 2012.
For softwood ply, cumulative volumes were up 11.6%, with Brazil doubling its UK export volumes in October (compared to a year before). Volumes from China, subject to an investigation by HMRC, grew substantially in January-October.
Particleboard imports grew by 36.3% in January-October, following a 15.4% dip in 2012. Portugal and Spain led the way with 131% and 90% increases in volumes. Germany and France raised their volumes substantially in October, accounting for most of the 16,500m3 increase in the month.
OSB and MDF imports were up 12.7% and 2.5% respectively in January-October, while hardwood remained the only product sector where volume was lower for January-October (-5.8%).