TTF survey finds timber industry resilience, but also Brexit trade friction

1 March 2021

Difficulties with logistics and trading with Northern Ireland under new Brexit protocols are having impacts on an already tight timber supply chain, a new UK timber Trade Federation (TTF) survey has found.

But despite the challenges, the survey found TTF members are coping well overall following the Brexit changes.

The survey identified logistics as the most pressing challenge – with a lack of haulage vehicles, inflated costs, and hauliers’ hesitancy to import and export goods in and out of the UK slowing down trade.

Second is the Northern Ireland Protocol. Some 45% of respondents from Great Britain who are trading with Northern Ireland (NI) believe the Protocol is detrimentally impacting their ability to supply the NI market. One respondent stated that it would be “more cost-effective for our business to cease trading with Northern Irish customers”.

Reasons include customs declarations, due diligence under UK Timber Regulation (UKTR), phytosanitary certificates and potentially duty under the Northern Ireland Protocol. This disadvantages GB suppliers compared to their European counterparts, as NI is for practical purposes still in the EU.

However, NI exporters to GB do appear to have largely “unfettered access”, with 55% of respondents reporting that they were not experiencing trade restrictions while moving goods from NI to GB.

Additional administrative procedures, as well as some European companies unwilling or unable to share details of supply chains to help members complete the necessary due diligence under UKTR, is also affecting respondents’ businesses.

Concern also exists about further challenges and uncertainties once the grace period for customs declarations comes to an end in July, and when UKCA marking is enforced next year.

“On the whole, this survey shows that our members are coping well with the changes brought about by Brexit,” said David Hopkins, TTF CEO.

“But, the new trade restrictions have come at a time when the market is experiencing unparalleled challenges as a result of the COVID pandemic.

“In December we released a market statement warning of tight timber and panel supplies into 2021. Now, the situation is exacerbated by increased administration and slower delivery times as a result of the Brexit trade deal.”

“We are working with the Construction Products Association (CPA) to look for practical solutions to this situation.”

Mr Hopkins said TTF members were optimistic for the year ahead, with timber demand “at an all-time high”.

The TTF survey gathered 36 member companies’ responses, representing timber importers, merchants, agents, and manufacturers between January 11-Feburary 12.