We’re not out of the woods when it comes to timber supplies

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Stuart Goodall is main enforcement of the Confederation of Forest Industries (Confor)

The Confederation of Forest Industries (Confor) precocious warned that the UK faces declining supplies of homegrown wood due to a deficiency of productive histrion planting. With the state needing to import much than 80 per cent of its wood requirement, the UK could beryllium sleepwalking into a timber shortage successful the not-too-distant future. We request to urgently determination productive histrion planting up the agenda.

The UK is the world’s second-largest importer of wood aft China, importing astir £7.5 cardinal annually. This is due to the fact that the UK presently grows lone astir 20 per cent of its wood requirement, leaving it exposed to a precise important equilibrium (80 per cent) that indispensable beryllium imported.

In 2020, the UK imported 48 cardinal cubic metres of wood products, of which 22 per cent was sawn wood and wood-based panels destined for usage by the gathering and operation industry. By 2021, this had accrued by 15 per cent, with the UK importing an mean of 1 cardinal cubic metres of timber and sheet products each month.

The World Bank estimates that planetary request for wood products volition treble by 2050, driven by an expanding population, which volition rise from today’s 7.8 cardinal to 10 cardinal successful little than 30 years.

Disruption to planetary supply

Globally, the information of proviso of earthy resources is presently nether menace from geopolitical upheavals, specified arsenic the Russian-Ukrainian situation and soaring vigor prices. While the UK mightiness not beryllium affected straight by Vladimir Putin’s penetration of Ukraine – Russian timber imports into the UK are comparatively tiny overall, at lone 1.25 per cent – Russia remains the world’s largest supplier of timber.

“Even earlier the Russian invasion, 2021 was a twelvemonth erstwhile request for wood outstripped proviso and timber prices roseate significantly”

With perchance longer-term economical sanctions being placed connected Russian exports, determination volition inevitably beryllium important disruption to proviso chains and terms hikes. There volition beryllium unit connected countries typically supplied by Russia, Ukraine and Belarus to question gathering worldly imports from different sources, including those Scandinavian countries that the UK relies upon truthful heavily.

Even earlier the Russian invasion, 2021 was a twelvemonth erstwhile request for wood outstripped proviso and timber prices roseate significantly, starring to rising operation costs and delays successful completing projects.

While the upward inclination successful UK and planetary request for wood is clear, the UK government’s forecasts amusement that supplies of homegrown wood volition autumn from the 2030s, meaning determination volition beryllium little wood disposable successful aboriginal than determination is now.

Ideal conditions successful UK

The UK has perfect conditions for growing wood to physique low-carbon homes and is simply a planetary person successful certifying that its forests are sustainably managed, yet portion the authorities has stated its ambitions for much histrion planting, determination has been small enactment connected the crushed extracurricular of Scotland. Confor is present calling for overmuch greater impetus down these aspirations to guarantee we person enough wood to assistance conscionable expanding operation demand.

Most of the onshore that could beryllium planted with trees is presently agricultural. Much sheep farming is marginal and reliant connected nationalist subsidies continuing. Confor has noted that diversifying onshore usage by the greater planting of productive trees volition assistance much farms to go viable portion helping the farming assemblage to lend to nett zero.

The concern has also, connected occasion, been made much challenging by vocal concerns expressed by definite biology involvement groups campaigning for autochthonal broadleaf histrion planting only. This ignores the sizeable biodiversity benefits that tin beryllium provided by planting mixed woodland successful accordance with strict standards for wood design.

Confor believes a step-change is needed successful attitudes towards productive histrion planting, which, if achieved, volition alteration the authorities to conscionable its ain tree-planting targets and its ambitions to usage much homegrown timber successful operation – without one, you can’t execute the other.

Achieving this volition necessitate the authorities to pass the benefits of productive woodland for the gathering of much energy-efficient, low-carbon homes and c sequestration, arsenic good arsenic biodiversity and flood control, successful bid to combat the misconceptions that hamper productive tree-planting applications.