2022 and the changing face of the UK’s timber trade

“Last year saw big changes in where the UK’s timber supply comes from as a number of geopolitical events (Brexit, war in Ukraine, Covid-19) filter through”

The latest Timber Development UK (TDUK) import figures show a “considerable” shift in timber trade patterns for last year, with major supplies coming from the Republic of Ireland, Latvia, and China.

In 2022, softwood imports from the Republic of Ireland (ROI) grew by 48%, surpassing shipments from Germany and Russia.

This is despite low total softwood quantities, with October 2022 imports down 28% from 2021.

Hardwood import patterns also altered, with Latvia replacing the United States as the top supplier. Overall hardwood imports climbed by 15% in 2022, with Latvia providing 22% and the United States providing 16%.

China has established itself as a major provider of plywood, accounting for 68% of hardwood plywood and 20% of softwood plywood.

According to Nick Boulton, TDUK’s head of technical and trade, high South American freight costs and Russian sanctions that started in March 2022 were main drivers of China’s increased share of the supply chain. He said:

“The first ten months of 2022 proved interesting, with traditional import patterns shifting as the year progressed. Against a backdrop of generally low softwood volumes, Irish imports have proved an exception, with Irish spruce proving a cost-effective option for many merchants. The hardwood trade has outperformed all other wood sectors in the first ten months of 2022 with volumes growing across the category. The pallet and packaging trade is driving much of the growth in Latvian hardwoods, with these lower-priced, more temperate species substituting typically used softwood.”

Boulton was also keen to spell out what this meant for the future of timber in Great Britain, as well as the impact it would have on those who rely on it, saying: “these varying trade patterns highlight the resilience and adaptability of the timber trade, with alternative sources being found to satisfy demand at the most cost-effective market rate.”

If you have struggled to get hold of your favourite timber and need something for your next project, give Quercus a call on 0845 50 50 311. We are always happy to share our knowledge with our customers, helping them pick a timber that fulfils all of their requirements.