A NEW report that set out the UK's timber production woes must prove a "watershed moment", a leading forestry figure has said. 

The cross-party Environmental Audit Committee’s (EAC) document concluded there is "little evidence" of a clear vision for the UK's timber industry, and said ministers must "set a long-term target" for the amount of timber produced in the country. 

Detailing how forestry in England could contribute to the delivery of objectives for timber, the report also backed the importance of softwood in the nation's future woodlands and the use of timber in construction. The UK remains the world's second-largest net importer of wood, with around 80 per cent of all product used in the country coming from abroad. 

READ MORE: 'Little evidence' of clear vision for UK's timber industry

"This needs to be a watershed moment that puts timber production at the heart of policymaking in England, where it belongs," said Stuart Goodall, chief executive of trade body Confor. “Importantly, it stresses what Confor has said for years: a sharp increase in timber production can be achieved at the same time as addressing the climate emergency and nature crisis. 

Forestry Journal: Just 19 per cent of the timber used in the UK is grown here Just 19 per cent of the timber used in the UK is grown here (Image: BSW)

"Economic and environmental benefits can be delivered in tandem. The very title of the report recognises this.”

Elsewhere, the report welcomed ministers' tree-planting targets but concluded they are "extremely unlikely" to be met. It also accused Forestry England of failing to adequately play its part in planting ambitions. The organisation has only planted 303 hectares out of the intended 2,000 between 2021 and 2026.

It went on to detail how timber supply in the country is likely to fall even further behind demand by 2040. 

“This analysis of productive timber supplies running out in the not-so-distant future is spot-on, and the UK needs to act now,” said Stuart. “Confor has been heartened by the actions of the current forestry Minister, Trudy Harrison MP, and I’d call on her to respond positively and constructively to this report. 

"We need to remove the outdated stigma once and for all from softwood planting and deliver the modern forests that society needs."

The report – published following a year-long inquiry – also calls for the Timber in Construction roadmap to address the afforestation commitment in the England Tree Action Plan, and “demonstrate how timber supply in future decades will help to meet growing demand for timber construction products, in a comprehensive, integrated and strategic way”.

However, there is a warning that home-grown wood won't be able to match demand, even in the long term. 

David Hopkins, CEO of Timber Development UK, said: “It is great to see MPs in the Environmental Audit Committee once again acknowledge the pivotal role timber must play in decarbonising construction in the UK.

Forestry Journal: Stuart Goodall was among those to react to the reportStuart Goodall was among those to react to the report

“The committee is right to argue for increased domestic timber production, with productive forests in the UK lagging well behind other European states. 

“However, as we have mentioned in our latest APPG report, increasing UK timber supply should be incentivised to complement, rather than replace, imported timber as UK supply alone cannot match demand, even in the medium/long term."

Philip Dunne MP, chair of the EAC, said: "The construction industry is increasingly looking to move away from steel and concrete to lower carbon alternatives, and timber is well placed to step in. Increasing productive forestry is welcome, though the Government must ensure that this isn’t at the expense of biodiversity."