UK imports hit a high-point, and it’s driving the price of MDF downwards

“The first quarter for timber imports was the best in 12 years – and its left MDF looking cheap to buy”

According to the recently released Timber Trade Federation (TTF) Timber Statistics – Industry Facts and Figures, June 2019, imports of timber are booming. Admittedly the comparable quarter last year was a slow one due to poor weather – but even accounting for that, this has been the most successful first quarter for importers since 2007, and the third consecutive quarter of growth.

Here are the figures: this year’s total import volume was up 14.8% on the first quarter of 2018, with softwoods showing 20.1% growth, and hardwoods increasing by 25.4%. These huge gains (while, admittedly, benefiting from a weak comparable) are down to increased activity in a number of countries, most notably Latvia and Germany, who both increased output to the UK by 40%.

One impact that all this importing has had is to drive down the price of MDF. Demand for the material was high in 2018, and doesn’t look to have dropped off – but European exporters have been busy, and the effect on the UK market has left standard MDF looking cheap to buy.

Opinions are split, however, as to whether there is actually oversupply in the UK market, or whether it is simply fear of potential competition (read: price undercutting from Europe) that has affected the cost of MDF.

One contact said that European importers had created “a significant amount of oversupply,” adding “there’s some additional output from UK mills but it’s significantly the penetration coming from importers [that’s causing the oversupply].”

However, another contact disagreed. He said: “I don’t think there’s that much volume coming from Europe. The problem is always quoted prices and quoted offers; it’s the presence of potentially cheaper material that frightens people. It undermines the whole market.”

Whatever the cause of MDF’s low prices, it’s a good time to buy. And if you’re in the market for timber more generally, high import figures give you plenty to choose from. If you’re looking to buy sustainably sourced, high quality timber, call Quercus on 0845 50 50 311 to discuss your requirements. We’re always happy to help.