Strengthen purchasing strategies, buyers told

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
11 December 2020

Buyers are being warned to “strengthen their purchasing strategies” as tight timber supply conditions are predicted to continue into 2021.

The Timber Trade Federation (TTF) said sawmills closed early in the coronavirus pandemic while lockdowns produced a surge in demand from DIY and garden projects, which hit supplies to the construction sector.

An increase in virus cases in Sweden, the largest timber supplier to the UK, has tightened operating conditions, while import problems connected with Brexit have created additional problems.

The TTF warned tight supply conditions would continue into quarter two of 2021, “if not longer”.

“Early in the pandemic many European sawmills were temporarily shut. Lockdowns across the UK and Europe then produced a massive surge in demand for timber for DIY and garden projects, which began to impact supplies through to Britain’s construction sector,” said the TTF. 

“With demand continuing at a high level into 2021, there has been no quiet season in Britain’s building trade, and thus little opportunity for sawmillers and importers to replenish stocks on the ground here in the UK to their previously-plentiful levels.

“Import logistics, especially with the end of the Brexit transition period and the new arrangements with the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, may add further pressures on supplies, as the timber sector will need to compete with many other industries in obtaining road haulage capacity within the UK.”

David Hopkins, chief executive of the TTF, said volumes were available but there would be longer lead times.

“It is understandable that many customers should be surprised by, and angry about, the new reality we are facing together,” he said. 

“The reported price inflation has also made it difficult for some manufacturers to accurately price projects for customers.”

Earlier this week the Builders Merchants Federation claimed it was taking up to four weeks to unload containers at ports due to congestion and there were concerns over the availability of tools and plumbing supplies.

And a group of logistics firms has called on the government to help clear a backlog of containers from ports.

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