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UK: Slowdown in construction starts to
affect timber imports
Following three months of steady growth, timber imports saw a gradual decline in April 2023.
Overall timber import volumes were 13.6% lower than in April 2022, with reduced construction activity in crucial RMI and private housing sectors largely responsible.
Imports of the main timber and panel products in the first four months of 2023 were 9% lower than over the same period in 2022.
After a period of great price volatility over the last 2 years, prices have stabilised in 2023 to date.
Solid wood imports over the first four months of 2023 were 8% lower than over the same period in 2022 and imports of panel products were 11% lower.
Gradual declines were seen in all categories, most notably softwood, which was down 6% from the previous year.
Despite reduced volumes, the monthly rate of change in April 2023 was significantly less volatile than the fluctuations of the last three years, suggesting a return to pre-pandemic market patterns.
This is echoed in the timber price data, with timber values appearing less volatile in 2023 than in the previous two years.
TDUK (Timber Development.UK) Head of Technical and Trade, Nick Boulton, said: “Timber imports have had a solid start to 2023, however, the gradual decline in April 2023 is unsurprising.
“Crucial demand-driving sectors like private housing are struggling due to high-interest rates, with the cost of borrowing deterring aspiring homeowners. Sticky inflation is also proving an issue, particularly in the RMI sector.
“This slowdown, however, is likely to be temporary, with the CPA predicting RMI and private housing recovery next year.
“On a more positive note, the statistics highlight a return to more ‘normal’ market patterns, with import and price volatility appearing to stabilise in 2023.
“Though fluctuations are still likely, the figures suggest the dramatic peaks and troughs of the immediate post-covid years are likely behind us.