Nigel Cox, Managing Director Timbmet is BMBI’s Expert for Timber & Panel Products.
The timber market is up year on year, but after months of post-EU referendum uncertainty and a significant adjustment in exchange rates, so are prices for hardwood timber. However, these are now starting to stabilise, although at a higher level than previous years.
The effects of the referendum are also threatening to make existing skills shortages worse. Skills shortages have been affecting all areas of the industry from HGV drivers, wood machinists, skilled timber selectors, to trade counter sales staff. The lack of skilled labour is a primary concern for our industry, and any additional restrictions from Brexit will have serious implications for domestic and commercial projects.
There is a notable increase in demand for European Oak worldwide and across sectors outside traditional carpentry and joinery markets because of its quality and durability. For example, European Oak is used for mass scale production in flooring and doors. Choosing a distributer with strong supplier relationships will be key to obtaining a steady and reliable supply, especially for prime grade hardwood.
OSB timber is winning share from Chinese Plywood because it is more stable, more cost effective, and generally has a full chain of custody. Sales of door blanks and engineered timber into the merchant sector are also growing steadily. However, supplies of MDF and Chipboard from UK manufacturers remain under pressure. Suppliers are reluctant to utilise their overseas manufacturing facilities because of high exchange rates.
Illegal deforestation remains a concern for the timber industry. A recent report from the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) indicates that one third of tropical timber traded globally comes from illegal deforestation. The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) says: “this stems from an increase of timber traded on domestic markets, which are less regulated and strict than international, export-orientated markets”. To help combat the trade in black market timber, it is important to choose an accredited supplier. Always ask for chain of custody information and for certified timbers (e.g. FSC or PEFC certified) where it’s available.