Contrary to construction industry forecasts, the softwood sector has seen a strong start to 2023, with imports up again in February 2023.
Softwood imports in the first two months of 2023 were up 2.4% compared to last year, with totals standing at 462,000m3 in February.
This steady increase is due to a good start to the year for the RMI market, which was up 11.4% in February compared to last year.
This growth comes despite negative construction industry forecasts, with the key Private Housing and RMI markets likely to contract this year, according to the CPA.
Though softwood totals are up, overall timber volumes are 6% lower than in the corresponding period in 2022.
This is largely due to reduced hardwood and plywood volumes, which are down 29% and 30% respectively.
TDUK Head of Technical and Trade, Nick Boulton, said:
“Softwood has continued its strong start to 2023, with volumes continuing to defy industry expectations.
“These growing volumes do come as a surprise following the CPA’s recent market forecast, which predicted a 17% decline in private housing and a 9% decline in RMI post-spring 2023. But 2022 opening volumes were very low as were Q4 imports and so these figures may just be rebalancing of stocks.
“After the ‘KamiKwasi’ budget in September, which directly led to interest rates rising to a 14-year high, this pessimistic forecast is unsurprising. Higher mortgage rates along with the broader cost of living increases mean the ability to move along the property ladder is weaker.
“This slump, however, is likely to be temporary, with the CPA predicting RMI and private housing recovery in 2024.
“Overall, the early 2023 figures suggest this year may not be as bad as feared. Forecasting, however, is a perilous business and we will be sure to keep members informed about all the latest market updates.”