New year prospects

18 December 2017

Soon, most of us will be on Christmas holidays – which often seem like a few days of calm wedged between the busyness of life.

It’s a good time to reflect on the year just gone and make plans for the year ahead. In the timber trade, there have been some big moments both in the UK and internationally.

It started with the takeover of Timbmet by Meyer Timber owner The Hadleigh Group, which signalled its intention to make still further acquisitions.

The Timber Trade Federation secured a major victory for improving plywood import standards by agreeing mandatory third-party testing for non-EU hardwood ply – achieving something that many thought was not possible. We also saw the first UK company – a London furniture retailer – fined under the EU Timber Regulation, while the first FLEGT-licensed wood products arrived in the UK (from Indonesia).

Work started on the UK’s first modified wood chip plant in Hull and MDF Recovery successfully completed proof of concept for its process to recover wood fibre from Waste MDF – a major innovation, which also later in the year won a prize at the TTJ Awards.

And Europe’s largest staircase manufacturer Staircraft continues its rise by expanding into I-joist manufacture and timber mouldings production.

Internationally, China continued to make headlines for its huge appetite for wood, with an inexorable growth in timber imports.

Austria-based sawmiller and engineered timber products manufacturer Binderholz further signalled its growth intentions with takeovers, including the landmark deal to buy large German softwood sawmiller Klenk Holz.

The US–Canada softwood lumber dispute again bubbled up, with the US slapping hefty duties once again on Canadian softwood timber imports.

The issue of Brexit has continued to rumble, with delays creating uncertainty. As TTJ went to press there were finally signs that talks could continue to the next stage.

Of course, many people would like to know what’s going to happen in 2018. While I don’t have a crystal ball, some of the issues which will continue to be a major talking point are price rises, high log prices and strong global demand for timber. Some mills are now saying they either can’t secure enough logs or the price of the raw material is too high. Securing timber is sure to be a top priority for importers in 2018. The warnings that Swedish sawmillers gave back in the spring seem to have been well founded.

A major announcement in the present is that mouldings manufacturer W Howard has signed up to be the Headline Sponsor of the TTJ Awards 2018. The company has been a long-term supporter of the event, having sponsored the Plywood Trader of the Year category for many years.

We will shortly also be announcing a new venue for the Awards next year, so stay posted for that soon. It only remains for me to wish you a very happy Christmas and a prosperous new year.