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Timber import volumes ‘weaker’, but prices stabilised

Posted: Tuesday, June 11th, 2024

The latest Timber Development UK (TDUK) statistics show that timber imports saw weaker volumes during Q1 2024 than in Q1 2023.

However, many timber and panel products have continued to experience much greater price stability in recent months.

Import volumes for Q1 were around 150,000m3, down on the previous year. While January and February’s data remained similar, volumes fell back in March, resulting in a 6.2% reduction.

Nearly all product types experienced this fall in volume, with only hardwood plywood finishing higher by 1% in Q1 2024 compared with the same period in 2023.

Despite this most recent fall, changes in import volumes have largely stabilised since the multiple economic shocks caused by Brexit and Covid between 2020 and 2023 and the continuing armed conflict in Europe.

These weaker volumes for the start of the year confirm the general sentiment across the timber trade and wider construction industry.

However, it should be noted that March 2024 figures are being compared against March 2023—the second-best month for import volumes of 2023—after which volumes dropped further in eight of the following nine months.

Anecdotal forecast data from the panels sector suggest volumes are expected to improve for the remainder of 2024. This may indicate that 2024 ends as a stronger overall year than we saw in 2023.

This potential for improvement should instil hope in the timber trade and wider construction industry.

Figures for March 2024 also show that import prices for softwood, hardwood, and plywood have largely stabilised in recent months, returning closer to pre-COVID and pre-Brexit levels.

This stability in prices should reassure the timber trade and wider construction industry about the market conditions.

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