Timber supply continuity is a growing issue

31 January 2018

As we enter the new year, trade talk about potential timber supply issues and rising prices continue to feature.

As this issue of TTJ went to press, the sad news broke about the failure of Scottish sawmiller James Callander & Sons and the loss of 89 staff there.

This Falkirk based £12m annual turnover firm, established in 1946, was a victim, KPMG administrators say, of several issues, including an inability to secure the quantity of supplies necessary to operate at optimum levels.

No-one likes to see well-established timber companies fail.

It’s difficult to know how big an issue raw material supply was at Callanders but speaking more generally about log prices and product price increases to manufacturers, distributors and merchants for this issue’s Fencing Sector Focus it’s clear that homegrown log supplies/prices is a hot issue at the moment.

Several sawmills are taking out some production because of the high log prices. On return from the Christmas holidays, one contact told me the situation was changing rapidly, with pricing for timber fencing seemingly set for several price increases in the first months of 2018.

Because of the situation, we will be talking in more detail to UK sawmills and forest owners in next month’s issue to get their assessment of the situation.

There’s more talk about supply in our regular e-softwood update, which we are now also including in the magazine. Flooding in Latvia’s forests has put sawmills back on their contract schedules and could lead to possible shortages in the months to come, says our Softwood Specialist.

This month contains a new regular feature for TTJ – Meet the Merchant – where we will be talking to a different timber/builders’ merchant every month – both independents and larger groups – in different areas of the country.

Merchants sell massive volumes of wood and we will be asking them about their businesses, market conditions and what makes them tick.

We kick off with MKM Building Supplies, a 51-branch group started in 1995 and where branch directors have autonomy in services they provide to customers. Not having to go up the chain to ask permission to do something makes it an extremely agile business with high levels of customers service.

Elsewhere, congratulations are in order to Derek Fletcher of DHH Timber Products, who is celebrating 60 years in the trade. He has seen a lot in the timber trade and been involved with a host of companies before setting up DHH. But he still likes to be on the front foot.

I’m sure he’ll be delighted if you buy him a drink at the Plywood Club of London annual dinner!