As the UK timber industry gears up for a new year, various professionals have shared their insights on the key topics and issues anticipated for 2023. Their responses have shed light on the industry’s perspective, providing a glimpse into what we can expect in the coming year.
James Scott, Managing Director of Scotts Timber Engineering, expressed a positive outlook for the new homes market in 2023. According to Scott, there is a strong demand for timber-engineered products, with stable timber prices, sufficient material supply, and healthy production volumes. Although last year’s mini-budget and rising living costs affected homebuyer confidence, signs of recovery in the housing market are emerging. Scott expects interest rates to remain low, which will continue to support the new homes market.
Another key topic of discussion was sustainability. The timber industry has long been committed to sustainable practices, and this commitment is expected to continue in 2023. Stuart Goodall, Chief Executive of Confor, the UK’s leading forestry and timber trade association, highlighted the importance of sustainable forestry management and the role it plays in mitigating climate change. Goodall stated that “the UK’s forestry and timber sector has a key role to play in helping the UK achieve its net-zero targets, and we need to ensure that our forests are managed sustainably to maximize their potential as a carbon sink.”
In addition to sustainability, the industry is also focused on innovation and technology. The use of digital tools and automation has been steadily increasing in recent years, and this trend is expected to continue in 2023. John McTaggart, Technical Director at James Jones & Sons, highlighted the importance of investing in technology to improve efficiency and productivity. McTaggart stated that “digital tools such as drones, sensors, and artificial intelligence can help us to better manage our forests, improve supply chain logistics, and optimize production processes.”
The timber industry is also keeping a close eye on Brexit and its potential impact on trade. While the industry has been preparing for Brexit for some time, the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the negotiations has created challenges. David Hopkins, CEO of the Timber Trade Federation, emphasized the importance of securing a favorable trade deal with the EU. Hopkins stated that “the timber industry is a global industry, and we need to ensure that we can continue to trade with our European partners without disruption. A no-deal Brexit would be catastrophic for the industry and could lead to significant job losses.”
Finally, the industry is also focused on attracting and retaining talent. With an aging workforce and a shortage of skilled workers, the timber industry is working to promote careers in the sector and provide training opportunities for young people. Neil Summers, Director of Timber at the Builders Merchants Federation, highlighted the importance of investing in apprenticeships and vocational training. Summers stated that “the timber industry offers a range of exciting and rewarding careers, and we need to ensure that young people are aware of the opportunities available to them.”
In conclusion, the UK timber industry is poised for a dynamic and challenging year in 2023. While there are certainly challenges ahead, there are also opportunities for growth and innovation. By focusing on sustainability, technology, trade, and talent, the industry can continue to thrive and contribute to the UK’s economic and environmental goals.