The Timber Trade Federation (TTF) Timber Statistics Facts & Figures for July 2020 reveal that total timber and panel product imports were down 350,000m3 in April, when compared to April 2019, bringing the total reduction in the first four months of 2020 to 923,000m3.

The TTF points out that the drop in import volumes would have been even more dramatic, had timber products not been in demand for DIY, garden, fencing and other projects undertaken by furloughed and self-isolating households during April.

Demand for timber packaging and pallets for transporting essential goods also mitigated the damage.

Softwood import volumes for the January- April period were 24.6% down on the corresponding period of 2019. The cumulative volume to January-April was 1,756,000m3 (2019: 2,329,000m3).

Russia was the only leading country of supply to show any growth in April, with all others showing steep losses. For Sweden, its planed whitewood experienced the greatest volume reduction in April, reflecting the lack of construction activity, while sawn redwood reductions were a major factor in the drop in volume from Finland.

The value of softwood imports in the first four months of 2020 was down by £176m, with sawn goods down by £110m and planed softwood down by £66m.

Hardwood imports were also down – by 18%, with cumulative volume to January- April at 148,000m3 (2019: 180,000m3). Imports in Q1 from the US were higher than in Q1 2019, but the lower volumes imported in April resulted in an overall year-to-date reduction of 2,000m3. The largest drop in imports were from France and Estonia, with French oak and Estonian birch being particularly badly impacted.

Plywood imports were down 18.9% in the first four months against the same period in 2019. Cumulative volume was 485,000m3 (2019: 598,000m3).

Breaking this down, hardwood plywood imports were down 12.2% on the comparison period, with cumulative volume at 289,000m3 (2019: 330,000m3).

The fall is largely due to significantly lower volumes imported from China in the month of April. This first full month of lockdown resulted in a 39% drop in hardwood plywood volume compared to April 2019.

Softwood plywood imports fared even worse, with a 27% drop in volume in the January-April comparison periods. Cumulative volume to January-April was 196,000m3 (2019: 268,000m3).

The TTF points out that this figure would have been worse had the month of April not seen higher volumes from Brazil, South Africa and Canada, compared to April 2019. Chipboard imports were down 37% in the first four months of 2020, compared with the same 2019 period. Cumulative volume was 191,000m3 (2019: 305,000m3).

The majority of this drop is down to lower volume from Germany and France, which both saw the cheaper grades being particularly badly hit.

Looking at April in isolation, the volume of chipboard imports was 61% lower than in April 2019, again with Germany and France seeing the biggest falls.

OSB imports for the first four months were down by 30.9%, with cumulative volume to January-April at 89,000m3 (2019: 130,000m3). MDF imports were also down, by 19.9%, with cumulative volume to January- April at 201,000m3 (2019: 250,000m3).