West Fraser Comment: Q4 2021

Throughout 2021 demand for timber products ran at unprecedented levels but, as unprecedented demand met unprecedented supply problems and rising costs, it was a challenging year. In Q4 though, we may just have turned the corner.

Timber Trade Federation (TTF) statistics show that imports of timber and panel products declined in November, as more regular demand patterns returned, but most product categories are still nearing record volumes, even when heading into the usual winter decline.

Driver shortages, which were in part responsible for last year’s supply chain issues, were much improved in Q4. Logistics UK announced in December they were starting to see the green shoots of recovery. As more drivers were being trained and fewer drivers were leaving overall driver numbers increased.

The CITB estimates that over 200,000 new workers will be needed by 2025 across the construction industry, including those with woodworking and joinery skills. To encourage the next generation to get qualified, the British Woodworking Federation (BWF) is launching an apprenticeships campaign as part of a wider focus on skills, talent recruitment and retention.

Looking ahead to 2022, sustainability will stay front of mind for architects and specifiers. The new way to build more sustainable buildings? The traditional way, by using timber as a primary building material. A return to wood would be beneficial for the planet. Not only does it remove more CO2 from the atmosphere than it adds through manufacture, but by replacing carbon-intensive materials such as concrete or steel it doubles its contribution to lowering CO2.

After a hiatus in high demand over the festive period and the start of 2022, we expect to see sales increase again in the spring when conditions are drier. Only then will we really know whether timber and timber product sales will stay high above pre-Covid levels and to what extent supply chain resilience has returned. While we like to think we operate in isolation and control our own paths, any hiccups or major disruption in the global supply chain affects us all.

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