The future of timber supply in 2024 in the US and UK presents a complex picture influenced by various factors including economic conditions, construction trends, environmental policies, and global market dynamics.
In the US, the timber market is expected to recover and experience growth in the coming years, particularly from 2024 onwards. This recovery is linked to the anticipated rebound in housing starts, a key driver of lumber demand. The US South has experienced a notable growth in lumber supply, thanks to numerous sawmill projects and increased capacity. This regional growth is expected to reduce the US’s reliance on imports of softwood lumber, leading to more domestic supply and potentially slower demand growth. However, global factors, including geopolitical conflicts and their impact on timber imports, continue to influence the US market.
For the UK, the situation appears more challenging. The UK is highly reliant on timber imports, being the second highest net importer of wood in the world. A significant portion (around 81%) of its timber is imported, which places a strain on domestic supply and security. This reliance on imports is juxtaposed against a backdrop of increasing demand and a forecasted decline in domestic softwood timber supply. The UK’s softwood timber supply is set to fall further behind demand, with production peaking in the late 2030s before returning to current levels in the 2040s. This scenario is concerning, especially considering the UK’s commitment to net zero and the growing demand for timber in construction.
Efforts are being made to address these challenges. In the UK, there’s a push for more domestic timber production to meet the rising demand and to contribute to environmental goals. The Timber in Construction Policy Roadmap, a government-backed document, aims to promote timber as a sustainable building material and overcome barriers in its use. Additionally, there’s a call for increased tree planting and developing a National Wood Strategy for England to ensure a sustainable timber supply for the future.
In summary, while the US timber market shows signs of recovery and growth from 2024, the UK faces significant challenges due to its heavy reliance on imports and a projected decline in domestic softwood supply. Efforts are underway in both countries to adapt to these changing circumstances and ensure sustainable timber supplies for the future.