Slight signs of recovery as import volume deficits continue to fall, statistics show

supply chain risks

Import volumes across the main timber and panel products during the first 10 months of 2023 were 1.5% lower than during the same period in 2022, suggesting a continued gradual improvement as the sector enters 2024.

The latest statistics from Timber Development UK (TDUK) show that despite a continued deficit in cumulative annual volumes, the sector has seen a slight improvement during the year to October 2023.

The import deficit reported after the 10 months to October 2023 was 123,000m3, down from the previous month’s figure of 184,000m3 and from the peak volume loss of 384,000m3 reported in May 2023.

In fact, import volumes in October 2023 were 9% higher than in October 2022 – the fifth consecutive month-to-month growth in volumes of timber, panels and engineered wood products.

Imported softwood prices remained largely stable in 2023, while the average prices of imported hardwoods have risen and stayed high, unlike other timber and panel products. At £796/m3 there has been a 4.6% increase in imported hardwood prices over the most recent two-year period, while the average price of imported softwoods was, at £245/m3, the lowest since March 2021.

The average 4.6% hardwood price rise takes into account price rises of 3.2% for tropical species, 6.6% for mixed species, but a fall of 2.5% for temperate species such as Oak which represent the bulk of Hardwood imports.

TDUK Head of Technical and Trade, Nick Boulton, said: “It’s encouraging to see the import volume deficit continuing to fall from its peak of 384,000m3 in May 2023, despite continuing concerns in the market with regards to demand forecasts for 2024.

“We know that market forecasts are expecting a challenging start to 2024 when it comes to housing and RMI project starts, especially as the colder winter weather arrives, but we continue to believe that the longer-term outlook for timber remains strong.

“The now-released Timber in Construction Roadmap has set out the Government’s intentions to encourage increased building with timber, and as we look further ahead to the post-General Election landscape it’s clear that timber is ideally placed to capitalise on the national infrastructure, housing and commercial building works that we know are desperately needed.”

TDUK members can read the full statistics report here.