Import volumes rallied during the second half of 2023, TDUK data shows

Timber import volumes in 2023 continued to improve as the year progressed, with total volumes for the full year likely to be only slightly behind 2022’s figures, according to the latest TDUK statistics.


Timber import statistics for November 2023 show the market continued to improve in 2023, relative to 2022, with total import volumes for the full year likely to be only slightly behind 2022’s figures.

Import volumes in the month of November 2023 were 0.9% higher than in November 2022. The deficit in the cumulative annual volume of the UK’s timber and panel imports after 11 months of 2023, compared to the same period in 2022, reduced once again to stand at around 117,000m3 – down from 123,000m3 last month. This cumulative reduction in volume of all imports in 2023 to November over 2022 was 1.3%.

This is a significant improvement on earlier in the year, as during the spring import volumes were on track to be the lowest since 2013, but imports during the second half of the year allayed any fear of this being the case. The loss in volume peaked at 384.000m3 in May 2023 and has reduced each month since to stand at 117,000m3, or just 1.3%, below 2022.

The 0.9% growth in the month of November completed six months of consecutive growth of the combined volume of the main timber, panels and engineered wood products imported by the UK. This better second-half performance has been realised largely through higher softwood, hardwood plywood, OSB and MDF imports.

Solid wood imports over the first 11 months of 2023 remain less than 1% lower than over the same period in 2022, with imports of panel products around 3% lower.

TDUK Head of Technical and Trade, Nick Boulton, said: “It’s encouraging to see main timber import volumes have now seen six months of consecutive growth in the second half of 2023, with statistics for the year just 1.3% below 2022 levels.

“This supports our belief – and the CPA forecasts – that while the market may be challenging for the coming months, particularly in the core newbuild housing and RMI sectors, better times lie ahead.

“It’s important to remember that while 2024 may have started slowly, this is likely to be an election year and the political parties will soon begin to set out their manifestos and plans for the construction and housebuilding sectors. The industry is expected to see recovery begin in 2025 post-General Election, and we look forward to learning how the different political parties plan to support the move towards timber as a core low-carbon building material, as has already been set out in the Government’s Timber in Construction Roadmap.”

This month’s statistics also contain a summary of the latest Construction Products Association’s forecasts for 2024 and beyond, with a focus on newbuild and private housing RMI.

TDUK members can read the full report here.