Timbmet comment: Q4 2018

Nigel Cox, Managing Director Timbmet is BMBI’s Expert for Timber & Panel Products.

Timber and panel product sales were good in Q4 2018. As this report shows, timber and joinery category sales grew 6.1% year on year, making it the strongest performing sector. Confidence is holding up despite ever-present economic uncertainty. Contingency planning continues for a ‘No Deal’ Brexit but there will inevitably be delays as imports get port clearance.

Hardwood timber supply for the major species is good. North American supply, specifically white oak, has been impacted by poor weather conditions slowing logging, and further influenced by reduced demand for lower grades at saw mills. The African supply situation hasn’t eased and availability of sapele is short. European oak demand remains strong but there are specification issues, specifically with long lengths. Far Eastern supply has also been hit by the weather which is reflected in price increases.

When sourced legally and sustainably, tropical hardwoods are one of best raw materials available. The announcement that Ghana is the first African nation able to export FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade) licensed timber must be welcomed. It is a significant step forward for the industry in ensuring the future of tropical timber.

Regarding panel products, availability of MDF (medium density fibreboard) continues to improve with additional production coming on stream, so lead times are reducing. Price increases have been seen and we should expect further movement in quarter one. OSB (oriented strand board) and P2 Furniture Grade chipboard lead times improved during the fourth quarter and are expected to improve further during 2019.

Plywood supply is inconsistent in availability, quality and price, all of which are a concern. Following the TTF (Timber Trade Federation) plywood review, it’s important that merchants play a vital role in ensuring lasting change in the plywood sector. A greater understanding of the product and its application is needed. Merchants must ensure the right documentation that supports CE marking is obtained. Sourcing legal and sustainable timber will contribute to greater transparency in the plywood sector.

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