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The latest timber import statistics from the Timber Development UK (TDUK) show a "considerable" shift in timber trade patterns in 2022, with the Republic of Ireland, Latvia and China supplying the UK with significant volumes.
Softwood imports from the Republic of Ireland (ROI) increased by 48% in 2022, overtaking supplies from both Germany and Russia.
This comes despite low overall softwood volumes, with imports in October 2022 down 28% from 2021.
Hardwood import patterns also varied, with Latvia overtaking the US as the leading country of supply. Overall hardwood imports increased by 15% in 2022, with 22% provided by Latvia and 16% by the USA.
China has cemented itself as a key supplier in the plywood category, providing 68% of hardwood plywood and 20% of softwood plywood.
“The first ten months of 2022 proved interesting, with traditional import patterns shifting as the year progressed,” said TDUK head of technical and trade, Nick Boulton.
“Against a backdrop of generally low softwood volumes, Irish imports have proved an exception, with Irish spruce proving a cost-effective option for many merchants.
“The hardwood trade has outperformed all other wood sectors in the first ten months of 2022 with volumes growing across the category.
“The pallet and packaging trade is driving much of the growth in Latvian hardwoods, with these lower-priced, more temperate species substituting typically used softwood.”
Mr Boulton said there were several reasons for increasing Chinese plywood volumes, however high South American freight costs earlier in the year and Russian sanctions starting in March 2022 were largely responsible.
“These varying trade patterns highlight the resilience and adaptability of the timber trade, with alternative sources being found to satisfy demand at the most cost-effective market rate.”