TIMBER import volumes are beginning to return to pre-pandemic levels for the first time - marking a drastic fall from last year's record highs.

New analysis by Timber Development UK shows the amount of wood brought into the UK in February was slightly higher than it was in February 2020 but 20 per cent lower than the same time 12 months prior. 

While this was the fifth consecutive month where total timber import volumes were below the previous year, it marks a return to more expected patterns within the market.

READ MORE: Timber Development UK's Market Statement: Russia's invasion of Ukraine set to place greater pressure on supplies

The biggest factor driving change between February 2022 and February 2021, according to chiefs from the trade body, was a 178,000m3 decline in softwood imports, with hardwood and plywood imports up by 32% and 8% respectively.

Nick Boulton, Timber Development UK Head of Technical and Trade, said: “After the 12% construction growth and a record year for timber imports in 2021, we were always expecting more modest import volumes in the early months of 2022.

“Softwood imports correlate heavily with the RM&I and new housing market which has had a slow start to the year.

Forestry Journal: The war in Ukraine is likely to affect timber imports this year The war in Ukraine is likely to affect timber imports this year

“It is likely these markets will continue to slow as we head into spring 2022, with the latest CPA forecast suggesting that inflation will impact these construction sectors the hardest.

“This is coupled with a likely slowdown in consumer confidence as the energy and cost of living crisis begins to bite in the coming months." 

The market is also likely to be affected by the war in Ukraine, with Russian wood now effectively banned and the conflict likely to stretch suppliers

READ MORE: Timber imports to UK rise again with nearly 3.32 million m3 bought in

Nick added: “It’s clear that companies in the wood sector will need to be more flexible in 2022 seeking out infrastructure and commercial projects in order to maintain strong growth.

“While overall these import volumes suggest a more ‘regular’ year for the timber market, the terrible events unfolding in Ukraine are likely to cause some market disruption."