It would be a brave person who would predict that 2009 will be anything other than challenging. However, we in the timber trade are used to a challenge – in fact, it may be the reason why we enjoy it so much.

There is no doubt that 2009 will be a very difficult year to forecast but we must maintain a positive focus within the trade. Opportunities will exist; many companies are now looking ahead to the building of the 2012 Olympics, coupled with the £3bn public sector spending promised by the government and the plan for 50,000 new homes in London, and realise that with hard work and determination we can succeed. The demand for more energy-efficient and sustainable homes will continue to grow and we now have the tools available to promote sustainably-grown timber as the solution.

The trade must ensure the benefits of timber are supported, citing the credentials of using FSC and other accredited schemes. Well-managed timber is one of the truly sustainable resources and we should guarantee that we maintain this at the forefront of users’ and specifiers’ minds.

Some excellent work has been carried out by the Forestry Commission, Napier University and others which help the trade demonstrate its carbon credentials beyond simply log supply.

With the great uncertainty in the global business supply chain, now is the time for British sawmills to demonstrate to the industry how far they have improved and developed over the past decade. The investments made in the sector have seen improved efficiencies, more consistent products and a more flexible approach to new products. Customers will continue to demand a high level of service and the whole supply chain will need to be able to meet these requirements.

We can afford to be cautiously optimistic on behalf of the British producers. We can turn up the volume to fill gaps now appearing in the market and respond quickly to short-term needs. We look forward to building on relationships in the supply chain and meeting the challenges head on.