Conserve Our Forests

Timber Industry in the UK

The United Kingdom is the fifth largest importer of timber products in the world behind China, the United States, Japan and Germany. As of 2015, imports consist of 60% (worth £5.54 billion) of the 13 million cubic meters (m³) of timber consumed in the country. 53% of the imports came from outside of the EU.

Hardwood and panel products for furniture and fittings comprise roughly 30% (3.05 million m³) of all imports. This is less than half of domestic production, which stands at 6.4 million m³. Domestic production of timber, after all, has been gradually increasing, and the volume of import has dropped by almost 10% since 2010. Another 47% of wood imports are used in the construction, maintenance and home improvement markets. The packaging and paper industries, meanwhile, consume 11% of imports.

The UK currently lags behind the world in the forest to land ratio, which is typical of fully industrialised nations (excluding the United States and Canada). While the planet and EU has a 31% and 37% forest to land ratio respectively, the UK can only boast of 12% (3 million hectares).

Nevertheless, the government is actively trying to increase woodlands’ sizes through replanting efforts and increasing sustainable forest initiatives. The Scottish government has announced a target of increasing forest area from 17% to 25% by 2050. In England, the government aims to increase the current 5% woodland cover to 12% by 2060. Separate from this, the Countryside Stewardship scheme incentivises land managers to plant trees in return for financial compensation. However, in a session at the House of Commons in January this year, Beccy Speight, the CEO of Woodland Trust, argued that the scheme actually dis-incentivise landowners from planting trees voluntarily owing to regulatory and contractual delays.

These measures are aimed at creating a continuous supply of renewable national resource. The UK forestry sector presently generates direct revenues of nearly £1.7 billion annually and provides 43,000 jobs.