UK softwood imports are expected to increase by 1.8% this year over 2009 – the first increase in volume for three years, according to the latest statistics from The Timber Trade Federation (TTF).

Using actual and forecast volumes, the TTF predicts that 4.95 million m³ will be imported this year, and growth of 3.5% next year will take the figure to 5.12 million m³.

The report, compiled by Timbertrends, reveals that in the seven months from January-July this year, softwood imports were 9.6% higher than the same period last year. Latvia, Ireland and Russia increased volumes by around 50% and German imports rose by 80%, while Sweden and Finland both lost some market share.

Softwood exports were down 17.5% on the year.

Imports of all timber for the period totalled 4.95 million m³, up from 4.46 million m³ in January-July 2009, but the rate of growth appears to be “slowing, or at best stabilising”, says the report.

Hardwood imports in the first seven months grew by 31%, driven by higher volumes from Europe and Africa, and to a lesser extent the US. Hardwood exports rose by 51.8%.

Plywood imports rose by 18.1%, with hardwood up 33.4% but softwood plywood down 4.4% on the same period in 2009.

Chipboard imports increased by 5.4%, and MDF and OSB volumes were up by 2.3%.

The forecast 4.2% growth in UK softwood consumption to 7.87 million m³ this year, is expected to slow to 2.4% in 2011.