Is BREXIT likely to impact U.S. sawn wood markets?
Sykes Timber in Warwickshire in the U.K.

Photo By Sykes Lumber

As a consumer and producers of hardwood and softwood, Britain is a key customer for U.S. forest products producers. A June 23 vote to leave the European Union has depressed the British Pound, limiting its buying power in the short term. 
North American hardwoods are a favorite among British cabinetry and casegoods producers. The American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) is the international trade association for the U.S. hardwood industry and hardwood product trade associations, representing the U.S. hardwood exporters at European trade shows like Interzum.


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AHEC runs a worldwide program to promote the full range of American hardwoods in over 50 export markets, with its European efforts based in London. It also sponsored a major design initiative to promote U.S. hardwood usage, WishList. And it promotes projects made with U.S. hardwoods. 

A report developed for the U.K. government shows that construction consumes 60 percent of or more of all sawn softwood used, depending on the level of construction activity. 

Another 40 percent of sawn softwood consumption is used in pallets and packaging, market strongly driven by shipping, along with fencing and decks. A remaining chunck of sawn softwood is miscellaneous markets from furniture and fittings to picture frames and pencils.
For the timber industry and in the supply of sawn softwood especially, ups and downs in construction have the biggest impact. But new approaches to housing and commercial construction are haveing a big impact. Here is the executive summary of the 2015 UK report, written by Nicholas Moore of Timber Trends for the UK Forestry Commission. (Read the entire UK wood report report here>>
During the period covered by this report, 2002 to 2014 with initial estimates for 2015, the markets for sawn softwood in the UK have undergone substantial change.
Construction remains the largest consumer of sawn softwood and suppliers to construction have witnessed significant change in the type of buildings constructed and in the methods of construction. In 2002, timber was rarely used structurally in buildings above two or three storeys and only one out of every six homes built in the UK were built by timber framing methods of construction.
By 2014, sawn softwood and other timber products were being used in structures to six storeys and higher and one in every three detached homes were built in timber frame.
The construction industry in the UK has experienced periods of good growth and severe decline over these thirteen years and the development of sawn softwood consumption has been closely tied to these changes.
While the volumes of sawn softwood consumed by new work in the construction industry is of importance, it is the repair, maintenance and improvement (RMI) markets that provide the destination for the majority of sawn softwood entering the construction industry.
Between 2002 and 2014, construction has regularly consumed 60% or more of all sawn softwood used, depending on the level of construction activity taking place in the UK each year. 
The other, roughly 40% of sawn softwood consumption during these years, is accounted for by two other main markets, the pallets and packaging market and the fencing and outdoor uses markets. There is a fourth destination for sawn softwood which is the collection of ‘other’ markets where a plethora of different products - from furniture and fittings to picture frames and pencils - are made from the sawn softwood.
The development of the UK economy has a significant influence on the health of many industries, but for the timber industry and in the supply of sawn softwood especially, it is the ups and downs experienced by the construction industry that has had the greatest impact on the development of the main markets for sawn softwood.
Periods of economic growth and decline have also helped direct the progress of the pallets and packaging industry and the fencing and outdoor uses market. During the period under review, the UK experienced the longest and deepest recession in living memory. Substantial losses in the volume of sawn softwood consumed by the main markets occurred during 2008 and 2009 and demand remained at relatively low levels for
a further three years.
Demand from sawn softwood markets improved thereafter and during 2013 and 2014, good growth in all markets has resulted.
Whilst the health of the UK economy is a main driver of demand for sawn softwood, other factors have also played an important role in the changes that have taken place in these main softwood consuming markets.
In the pallets and packaging markets, changes in the use of pallets during and after the years of recession resulted in less sawn softwood used. To reduce costs, pallet re-use became more prevalent and production of new pallets fell accordingly.

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About the author
Bill Esler | ConfSenior Editor

Bill wrote for, FDMC and Closets & Organized Storage magazines. 

Bill's background includes more than 10 years in print manufacturing management, followed by more than 30 years in business reporting on industrial manufacturing in the forest products industries, including printing and packaging at American Printer (Features Editor) and Graphic Arts Monthly (Editor in Chief) magazines; and in secondary wood manufacturing for

Bill was deeply involved with the launches of the Woodworking Network Leadership Forum, and the 40 Under 40 Awards programs. He currently reports on technology and business trends and develops conference programs.

In addition to his work as a journalist, Bill supports efforts to expand and improve educational opportunities in the manufacturing sectors, including 10 years on the Print & Graphics Scholarship Foundation; six years with the U.S. WoodLinks; and currently on the Woodwork Career Alliance Education Committee. He is also supports the Greater West Town Training Partnership Woodworking Program, which has trained more than 950 adults for industrial wood manufacturing careers. 

Bill volunteers for Foinse Research Station, a biological field station staddling the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland, one of more than 200 members of the Organization of Biological Field Stations.