As a newcomer to the industry, the last few months have been a fascinating time for me, getting to grips with a whole new set of markets, products, technologies, business methods, policies and politics. But a number of big themes consistently strike me.

One is an overall sense of optimism about the prospects for timber and timber products. Not blind optimism by any means – we know there is a long way to go yet before prices and margins support the levels of woodland management or new manufacturing investment needed.

But there is a real sense of timber being a product whose time has come again. Much of this is due to our sustainability credentials, where the contribution we can make gives us a unique competitive advantage over other building materials.

Another big theme is the fact that the processing sector includes some of the best examples in the UK of advanced manufacturing companies. The reputation of the industry in the outside world remains, I suspect, very different – an ageing, inefficient ‘bad neighbour’ industry.

Nothing could be further from the truth and we need to show that we are one of the UK’s most advanced industries, using sustainable resources to produce innovative products.

There seems very little awareness within government that a commercially sustainable forestry sector is essential to delivering the range of non-market benefits expected by the public. Or that it is the essential first link in a supply chain that supports business and jobs throughout the country, often in economically vulnerable rural areas.

That doesn’t mean we need handouts. But we do need to influence policies, on planning for example, that constrain both the growing and processing sectors.

This is an industry with great potential but a hugely understated ego. We have a great deal going for us, but we need to let customers, government and the business media know about it and believe in it.