It has been interesting to read recent correspondence in TTJ regarding the activities of the dodgier element of our trade, particularly those of our dear friend the plywood importer. Having begun work in that sector nearly 30 years ago and specialising in it for many of my formative years, it would appear that not much has changed with today’s batch of Del Boys up to the same old tricks as their predecessors.

Similarly, the practice of falsifying the grade of timber intended for structural use has been a thorn in the side of legitimate traders for many years. Typically, miscreants will import cheap, unseasoned softwood from the Baltic states and stamp it as kiln dried and strength graded, irrespective of moisture content or true grade. This practice has cost legitimate businesses and the timber industry as a whole millions of pounds in lost revenue, yet it continues, to a great extent, unchecked.

The larger speculative housebuilder has almost deserted timber for internal structural beams, giving preference to engineered products such as ‘beam and block’ and I-beams. Builders I have spoken to have an overriding belief that these products are vastly superior to timber. Moreover, a substan-tially higher price does not seem any deterrent to their ever-increasing popularity. Had it not been for so much poor quality softwood entering the supply chain, this situation may well have been avoided.

I have experienced the problem on a number of occasions. Typically, the suspect goods have been found in builders merchants’ yards.

The vast majority of merchant customers take pains to ensure appropriate qualities and grades are maintained, however, there are also those where timber is stocked almost under sufferance. I have spoken to senior managers of these companies, explaining that they have been defrauded and told them of the risk they take by selling a wrongly identified product. Without exception, none has wished to take issue with their supplier.

I believe there are two reasons for such apparent apathy. One is that to admit to receiving illegitimate material will show the buyer to be negligent. The second is that these people do not care.

Timber in real terms is cheaper now that it has ever been, yet the greedy and unscrupulous seem unable to divert their talents into more innovative ways of adding value to it. Rather, they choose to continue their selfish short-term enterprises to the detriment of the rest of us. We can do something about it or simply permit Del Boy to keep ripping us off. But please, let’s not keep moaning about it while simultaneously waiting for someone else to do the dirty work.