Hardwood: high demand and low supply likely to persist

“Hardwood prices have increased due to supply chain disturbances caused by Brexit… but strong customer demand for timber still makes hardwood a good choice”

Hardwood is expensive at the moment – we know it, and so do you. Over the last nine months we have all witnessed unprecedented inflation in the sector as the Covid-19 pandemic has created numerous supply chain problems around the world. At Quercus we do our best to absorb as much of the rising cost as possible, but this trend is a global one of historic proportion and, as a result, there is only so much we can do to keep prices down.

The bad news is that this situation looks set to persist for some time. But the good news is that wood is more popular than ever and customers seem willing to spend the extra. Timber’s popularity – powered by the sustainability trend, a growing appreciation of natural aesthetics, and innovative new treatments that make timber even more versatile than it used to be – also looks set to remain high for the foreseeable future.

Describing the situation, one hardwood importer recently told reporters: “The market environment that developed through the pandemic and pushed prices up worldwide is still with us. It’s a unique conjunction of booming international demand, plus record transport costs, with restricted global production due to harvesters and mills running short of staff because of Covid-19 infection and implementation of pandemic-safe work practices.”

However, if the pandemic has dented supply, it has bolstered demand. All around the UK, furloughed workers stayed home instead of going to work or taking holidays. Brits spend £65 billion on holidays every year, so even with the financial hardships that Covid-19 brought, there was plenty of money to go around. There was plenty of time, too – and many people around the country used it to take stock of their home and the work that could be done to improve it. Add in the post-pandemic construction boom, and it is easy to see how supply has skyrocketed this year.

Covid-19 is not, of course, the only reason for supply issues. Judd Johnson, editor of the US Hardwood Market Report, recently explained that the American hardwood market (and American hardwood is still the hardest to get hold of) entered the pandemic depressed. As a result, it struggled to recover when the economy reopened: “As a prelude to how Covid affected business, you have to take account of the financial damage to the sector caused by the US/China trade war and China’s weaker economy in 2018/2019. We estimate that US hardwood production decreased 8.2% from mid-2018 through year end 2019.” In the UK, another hurdle is, of course, trade restrictions after Brexit.

Despite hardwood’s current high prices, the parallel rise in demand from customers all across the UK still makes it commercially viable. In short, people still want to buy it, even if it costs more. At Quercus, we will continue to do our best to deliver a regular supply of top-quality hardwood at the best prices possible. So, whatever you need (even if it’s just advice on what timber to use for an upcoming project) please give us a call on 0845 50 50 311.