Stability returns to import market in H1 2023

Timber import figures in H1 2023 highlight growing market stability following three volatile years, according to the latest TDUK statistics.

In the softwood sector, year-on-year volatility has slowed, with the difference in H1 totals between 2023/2022 just -5% compared to -17% in 2022/2021 and +49% in 2021/2020.

Softwood imports from January to June 2023 stood at 3,217,000m3, closely resembling pre-covid levels seen in H1 2019.

Following record totals in 2022, hardwood imports have seen limited variation in 2023, with volumes sitting between 37,000m3 and 45,000m3 month on month.

This stability has been echoed in the panel sector, where there has been monthly volume consistency in plywood, MDF and OSB categories.

Overall volumes in H1 2023 were 7% lower than H1 2022, however June totals were 2% higher than the previous year.

TDUK Head of Technical and Trade, Nick Boulton, said: 

“The first six months of 2023 closely resemble the patterns seen pre-2020, suggesting stability has finally returned to the market.

“Brexit, Covid-19, and the Russia-Ukraine war created a perfect storm for our industry, with huge import fluctuations seen in 2020, 2021 and 2022. Barring another major market shock, we are unlikely to see these dramatic peaks and troughs return anytime soon.

“Though import stability has returned, the market situation in the UK remains tricky, with both inflation and interest rates remaining high.

“For this reason, the CPA have predicted a slowdown in crucial private housing and RMI sectors, which is likely to impact timber imports in Q3 and Q4.

“We must also be aware that the loss of Russian wood to the European market and the effects of climate change will significantly tighten wood supply in the coming years, making the efficient and effective use of wood resources an increasing priority.

“TDUK will be shedding more light on the market situation and supply forecasts at our upcoming Global Market Conference on 8 November.”

Members can read the full statistics report here.