Imports of the main timber and panel products in 2023 were 2% lower than in 2022 but “the continuing positive trends of timber products after unprecedented market instability from 2019 is a testament to the resilience of the UK timber industry”.

So says Timber Development UK (TDUK) in its latest set of figures – Timber Statistics, Industry Facts & Figures, March 2024. The report, which covers the whole of 2023, goes on to say that the volume of the main imported timber and panel products in the first half of the year trailed those in 2022 but “modest improvements’ in the second half of 2023 made up for much of this lost volume.

Import volume in the final quarter was 1% below Q4 2022, said the report, adding that the four quarters of 2023 saw a greater stability return to the market, “with substantially less volatility compared to each of the four quarters of 2020, 2021 and 2022”.

Softwood imports for 2023 were up 0.8% on 2022, with cumulative volume from January-December at 5,722,000m3 (2022: 5,677,000m3).

Sweden and Finland increased volumes to the UK by 13% and 6% respectively in 2023, while Norway raised its volume supplied to the UK by 4%. Conversely, large losses in volume were recorded by Latvia (down 15%) and Germany (down 12%). Small reductions in volume were recorded from the Republic of Ireland.

All hardwood imports were down 22.2% in 2023, year-on-year, with cumulative volume at 448,000m3 (2022: 576,000m3).

Tropical hardwood imports were down 10%, with cumulative volume at 84,000m3 (2022: 94,000m3); and temperate hardwood imports were down 11.8%, with cumulative volume at 260,000m3 (2022: 295,000m3).

The TDUK notes that around half of the fall in volume is attributable to a total decline of 69,000m3 in 2023 from Latvia.

Volume from the US was 5% lower, while volumes from France, Estonia and Cameroon were down 25%, 31% and 10% respectively.

Bucking the trend, volumes from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon were up by 38% and 25% respectively, leading to their increased share of supply of tropical hardwoods to the UK.

All plywood imports were down by 11.7%, with cumulative volume from January-December at 1,160,000m3 (2022: 1,315,000m3).

Within this, hardwood plywood was down 13.1%, with cumulative volume for the year at 839,000m3 (2022: 965,000m3).

Imports of hardwood plywood from China fell by 10% in 2023 but falls from other supplying countries meant that its share of supply to the UK increased to 70%, up from 68% in 2022.

Softwood plywood imports are still very much dominated by Brazil, which saw its share of supply to the UK rise from 49% in 2022, to 54% in 2023.

Softwood plywood imports as a whole were down 8.1% last year, with cumulative volume for 2023 at 321,000m3 (2022: 350,000m3). Chipboard imports were down 6.2% in 2023, year-on-year, with cumulative volume at 608,000m3 in 2023 (2022: 648,000m3).

Between them, Germany and Spain accounted for a reduction of 66,000m3. This was counterbalanced to a degree by a combined increase of 46,000m3 from France and Belgium.

OSB imports were up 19.4%, year-onyear, with cumulative volume for 2023 at 436,000m3 (2022: 365,000m3). MDF imports were up 2.2% in 2023, yearon- year, with cumulative volume for 2023 at 755,000m3