As the roads (and even traffic lights) melted in the record-breaking heat, there has been a contrasting but unmistakable cooling in demand for many timber products, particularly in the merchanting and DIY sectors.

Since about March this has been detected and in the softwood sector particularly there has been pressures to drop prices to offload stock and recoup cash, igniting the perennial debate about the need to maintain good timber price levels.

Speaking to several seasoned veterans in the softwood trade, there is definite concern about how inflation is impacting consumers’ confidence and how further energy price hikes in the autumn may play out, as well as the Ukraine conflict.

Attending the European Panel Federation’s recent AGM & Conference in Ghent there was both the positive display of excellent financials from the wood-based panels sector in 2021 but also the caution of the multiple factors now affecting the industry. Raw material, chemicals and energy were flagged up as challenging in terms of cost and availability and there is talk of energy rationing this winter from several European countries.

Particleboard demand, one industry analyst shared, is likely to decline in Europe in 2022 & 2023.

Timber Development UK has also referenced the economic headwinds currently weighing on the market.

The big question is of course – is this a blip or something that will persist for longer? The autumn will surely reveal more signals on the direction of travel.

But the resilience the timber sector has showed and its excellent performance over the past two years puts it in a strong position to face these new headwinds. And we mustn’t forget that the bigger, long-term picture is that timber’s star is definitely on the rise for a multitude of reasons spanning sustainability, carbon reduction, aesthetics and performance.

In this issue we have sector focuses on France, timber in construction, software and storage and handling.

In the former, French Timber’s Jean-Francois Guilbert references the challenges for the French sawmill industry, including tight log supplies and increased labour and energy costs.

Meanwhile, the hot topic of timber treatment has seen some interesting news – the marking of seven years into a field test of treated timber posts. The fact that treated posts are still performing well after seven years’ service in different sets of ground conditions contradicts anecdotal ‘conclusions’ from some fencing sector voices that the CCA ban was the reason for some early fence post failures. Clearly, there must have been other factors.

Lastly, we’ve announced Paul Sinha as this year’s TTJ Awards host. If you haven’t bought tickets yet, please do so soon as the September 30 event is getting ever nearer.

Stephen Powney, Group Editor