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2013 figures reveal modest recovery in timber pallet production

The supply of new timber pallets increased slightly in 2013, according to new Timbertrends figures. The Timbertrends report, which is commissioned jointly by TIMCON and the Forestry Commission every year, was released at the Timber Packaging & Pallet Confederation (TIMCON)’s general meeting at the end of January.

Presenting the findings at the Manchester conference, independent statistical expert Nick Moore said overall the quantity of newly manufactured and repaired pallets increased by just over one per cent to approximately 66.2 million. Within this total, the quantity of new pallets grew by 4.5 per cent to 31.4 million and repaired pallets fell slightly to 34.8 million compared to the previous year.

Turnover of the pallets industry was estimated to have grown by 2.3 per cent to £279 million, with turnover in new pallets increasing by 0.5 per cent to just over £205 million. Pallet repairs, meanwhile, increased to £73 million turnover, up 7.8 per cent.

Stuart Hex, General Secretary of TIMCON, said: “The timber pallets and packaging industry has experienced several successive difficult years, with increasing costs, sluggish demand and no real increase in product prices. So it is encouraging to see some growth in the volumes of new pallets being produced, particularly given the steady increases in the price of pallet timber that began in the middle of 2013, which the industry has had to accommodate. This will hopefully prove to be the sign of a more sustained recovery in volumes, as the study certainly suggests the manufacturers are expecting a further increase in its turnover in 2014.”

2013 also saw further increases in the percentage of timber the industry uses from UK and Irish sources. UK-produced softwood increased its share slightly to 74 per cent, up from 73 per cent in 2012; while the Republic of Ireland grew exports by nearly 60 per cent, to take 5.5 per cent of the total supply to the UK industry.

John Dye, President of TIMCON said: “TIMCON and the Forestry Commission have cooperated on this important survey for five years now. It provides our members with a valuable insight into the main production trends – and these latest figures really demonstrate the resilience of our sector.

“Timber pallets and packaging are critical for supply chains, and as such production figures have always provided a good barometer of the health of the wider economy. The early encouraging signs we see in our sector in 2013 are certainly consistent with the modest improvement shown in UK business as a whole. We hope this marks the beginning of a sustained recovery.

“This is also good news for the British and Irish forest-based sectors, which again have increased their share of total timber used for the production of UK pallets and packaging. Pallets and packaging is growing as a market outlet for major UK sawmills, as evidenced by the Forestry Commission’s figures, showing the proportion used by this sector rose to 32 per cent in 2013, compared with 29 per cent in 2008.”

Delegates at the general meeting were given a presentation on the work of the Confederation of Forestry Industries (CONFOR), which collaborates with TIMCON on projects, which include the monitoring of tree planting to ensure the long-term supply of commercial timber.

There was also an introduction to this year’s European Federation of Wooden Pallet & Packaging Manufacturers (FEFPEB) congress, which is being held in Cork, Ireland, on October 29th – 30th this year. The event is being hosted by TIMCON, which is collaborating with its Irish members to develop the programme for the two days, and will be attended by delegates from Europe, the US, China and other parts of the world.

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