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News

01/03/2021

Softwood Market Update from the Director of the National Timber Group

I was hoping to try and give a more comprehensive look at current market pressures to try and give an insight behind all the constant price increases, with feedback directly contributed from a few of our key supply partners

Regular cost increases are something we have all had to accept over the last year, and all indications are that it’s going to continue for the foreseeable as we go through this year.

2021 has seen the 1st quarter follow a very similar path to last year as far as pressures on our Softwood costs. Whether it’s an Imported C24 or a Homegrown C16, prices are continuing to head in one direction. With varying reasons behind such aggressive increases the market continues to be constantly under pressure from so many differing angles. Below is a quick snapshot on some of the costs we have all seen last year and continuing to see within this first quarter.

C16 Homegrown

2020 – 41% increases
2021 this first quarter will see further large increases absorbed around the 24% level

Fencing                            

2020 – 30 % Increases
202110% first two months, although not as high as C16, we are now entering the Fencing season, and supply will be key, with expected prices to see another 10-12% increase over next couple of months

C24 Imported                 

2020 – 73% increases
2021first quarter 15% increases

CLS Imported                 

2020 – 55% increases
2021 – first quarter approx 14%- 16% increases, we’re still concluding March prices, but likely to be around this number

TR26 Imported               

2020 – 35% increases
2021 – first quarter was a 10% increase and indication for next quarter prices will see similar 10-12% increases

Homegrown

The feedback from both our large Homegrown key suppliers for the larger 1st Quarter increases are summed up as follows:

As a result of the continued high demand, all sawmills are running at full capacity and therefore stressing their own supply chains. At present these supply chains are facing their own difficulties and this is resulting in inflationary activity in all harvesting areas. The difficulties are arising from the lack of material that is coming to market from the private growers and this reduced amount of log volumes are now being bought at ever increasing prices. The situation is being compounded by the fact that Irish mills are coming to the west coast of Scotland and purchasing logs to take back to Ireland to mitigate the issues they are seeing in their own market where a restriction in felling licences being issued from the Irish government is causing huge shortages of volume coming to market in their own markets.

The effect that the Irish purchases are having is two- fold, firstly the volume available is reduced and diluted as more people are competing for the same volume and secondly because of this increased competition, the price that the mills are having to pay for the material is going higher all the time.

The issues in Ireland are not easing and currently those mills are taking 40k tonnes of logs per month out of the Scottish market and in some cases paying £20/Tonne more than we would usually expect to pay. It is clear therefore that to secure volume to keep our own mills going, we are having to pay more for volume on an ongoing basis.

Globally, material from the Scandinavian and Latvian mills continues to head towards the USA and an ever-strengthening Chinese market. As a result, the prices in these markets will well exceed the price the UK will pay for the material and this will continue to force the KD import price higher and higher this year. We are currently seeing huge spike in enquiries for home grown C16 material as customers seek to change their purchasing policies to focus on the UK alternative both from an availability and price perspective. Given we cannot provide the market with any more KD material and that we are at present, in some cases £60/m3 lower than the imported mills, we have a requirement to try and move our KD prices to reflect the changes we are seeing in this construction products market and come back in line with the traditional £20-£30/m3 gap between HG and imported products, however this is likely to take several months to get to this position

It is going to become increasingly difficult to keep all customers supplied with the volume they require as the demand continues at the levels we have seen. It will force us to consider and discuss reducing volume to some customers in favour of our more strategic partners like the NTG, who have long term agreements in place.

Imported

The current situation on C24 availability has seen more landed stock in the UK than we saw at the end of 2020, partly due to stock build up over the Christmas period, followed by stall in demand with both the poor weather and lockdown restrictions having an influence. This is seen by many as a temporary position and although price increases on C24 may not have been as high as initially forecast, we anticipate that once we get into March onwards and an improvement in the weather, and hopefully a loosing of the current lockdown restrictions, will mean demand will increase.

A lot will depend on demand both here and worldwide as to how prices will go.  Currently the Swedish sawmills have logs available but because of the world demand they are unable to build stock and are selling everything they produce. This means they are still very bullish on prices and we are already having to commit to increase of £20-25m3 into Q2 to secure enough volume for our regular sales. In the Baltic log supply is the issue with the lack of a market for pulp logs meaning that mills are having to pay over the odds for sawn logs and their availability is restricted.

Both these factors are continuing to push prices upwards today.  We have stuck with the same supplying mills for some time and believe that they will make our usual volumes available to us on an ongoing basis for both the C24 and CLS products.

The US is still seeing more and more house starts granted and that market remains very strong. The Far East, China and the Middle East are now paying the prices that they were reluctant to accept in the summer/autumn as they now need wood, more recently I have heard that Russian producers are looking for as much as an extra €50m3. The arrival of a hard winter has improved the log extraction situation in the Baltics but raw material is still short and the cold snap is severely curtailing output from the mills across Europe. There are not any stock inventories built up at the mills and with demand in Europe still strong this all leads to another increase for March as things start moving.


 

I appreciate the above is a little “wordy” but it does give a glimpse of how our key supply partners see the market.

As we know, these ever-increasing costs are not just within the Softwood group, MDF Mouldings, Plywood’s, Chipboards, OSB, MDF have all seen over the last six months, demand grow to unprecedented levels and just as we have seen within Softwoods, securing volume within these products has been extremely challenging, with many mills/importers putting allocations measures in place. (we are looking to get a similar update on these products out very shortly)

Likewise, steel products, hangers, fixings, plates, all used within our fabrication depots, are also not exempt to these issues, with recent increases of 10-12% being the norm, with suppliers reporting of gazumping in securing steel volumes for manufacturing these products.

I know the above may not be the easiest of reading and having to accommodate these continued increases to the market has been challenging for us all. However, what has been reassuring to the National Timber Group, is we have suppliers who want to continue to support us as a key partner within the supply chain and have measures in place to ensure continuity of supply. They have long term aspirations to grow with our group and have committed to support us whilst supply is so challenging.

Regards
Vic Bellas
Regional Procurement Director – NTG


 

We stock a wide range of Timber products available on the ground throughout our network of roofing merchants. Just contact your local branch for more details.

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