IT appears we've picked a good time to be between prime ministers. With Boris Johnson's whereabouts not entirely clear and his Conservative Party taking an age to decide on his successor, another storm is brewing in forestry.

One of Scotland's largest sawmills has all but been given the chop by BSW. In a move that's been criticised by MSPs and local councillors - not to mention by those within the sector - Boat of Garten has been earmarked for closure at the end of September. If the move goes ahead, it's believed around 40 jobs will be lost at the Cairngorms National Park site. 

READ MORE: BSW's Boat of Garten sawmill to shut this September with 40 job losses expected

This is the same BSW which, in changes that drew widespread derision, has brought the payment system of Tilhill (another of its subsidiaries) in line with the rest of the company. The long and the short being that it means some operators will face a 10-week wait for payment, rather than the current fortnightly, self-billing basis. That decision was branded as "cruel" by the Forestry Contracting Association (FCA). 

When announcing news of the mill's imminent closure, Tony Hackney, CEO of BSW Timber, pointed the finger of blame at the war in Ukraine, increasing energy costs and a 40-year high in cost of living expenses, saying the timber industry has experienced a "global downturn". 

The last part stands out and, some might argue, seems at odds with some new statistics, released (coincidentally) just today. 

Forestry Journal:

According to Timber Development UK (TDUK), 2022 continues to be a record year for hardwood imports, with volumes up 25 per cent on the same time period last year. Conversely, softwood imports remain 18 per cent below the record levels seen in 2021 (but are still very high). 

READ MORE: Forestry sector at risk of 'collapse' over 'unsustainable fuel costs' and red diesel changes, warns FCA chair

Latvia, France and Cameroon have all seen a sharp rise in the amount of wood sent to the UK, which continues to be the world's second-largest net-importer of timber. All of this suggests that demand is there; the country just can't meet it. 

But in a sector where tree-planting targets are being continuously missed – the UK didn't even plant half of its annual 30,000-hectare goal in the last 12 months – and costs are going up and up, it appears to be becoming harder and harder for the supply to get even close to matching that demand. 

Unless something can be done and done soon, the FCA's earlier warnings of forestry's collapse might just come to fruition

The fate of Boat of Garten appears to be a crossroads moment for the industry. 

This piece is an extract from today’s Forestry Latest News newsletter, which is emailed out at 4PM every Friday with a round-up of the week's top stories. 

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