In this guest blog, David Hopkins, CEO of the Timber Trade Federation, says vigilance is needed as we head towards the end of the Brexit transition period . . .
Winston Churchill once said: “If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.” Both the BWF and the Timber Trade Federation have been working hard at driving home the necessity to clarify the status of wood products such as engineered raw materials, vital for the UK’s window industry, with those who may have influence in the Brexit negotiations. Enabling government to recognise the potential difficulties that could be created is fundamental to both our sectors.
Yet as that other famous general, Napoleon, put it, if you want a job done properly, do it yourself. Timber Trade Federation members have thus been planning for some time to minimise any potential for disruption for customers in the joinery sector. Many are now confident that they will be able to supply joinery timbers of all kinds and panel products going forward, with little hinderance to supply. Some sawn hardwoods come in from Africa, South America, the Far East and the USA, so there will be little change there. An increasing number of panel products also come into the UK from outside the EU, though from countries like China and Russia which may require more due diligence work to ensure the timber has been sustainably-grown and legally-harvested.
Thinking laterally and recognising the potential for using alternative species might also be in joiners’ interests. A wider basket of sustainably-sourced African hardwoods are now becoming available from companies with proven credentials. In Africa and in the Far East, greater numbers of timber producers are now offering further-processed products, such as finger-jointed, laminated raw material sections. The European Union’s FLEGT licensing system is starting to widen the basket of materials available from around the world. Covering legality certification of countries’ whole forest resources and supply chains, FLEGT-licensed products such as FR-certified hardwood door blanks are now available, and more will follow.
As we start to take our place on the global trading stage we may well see a return to a more diverse range of timber species being used in the UK joinery sector, whether that be PEFC-certified timbers from Malaysia, whose working properties have been verified by bodies like TRADA, to the extensive range of American hardwoods, produced by the many family forest owners in the USA. Diversity brings strength and offers new marketing potential to joinery companies willing to undertake the necessary research and due diligence to prove legality and sustainability. Buying your timber from a TTF member is your starting point. Our members are obliged to undertake strict due diligence and to submit their practices to random independent audit.
Recognising the potential of good relationships is also key to our shared future. Whatever your thoughts on Brexit, a worry shared is a worry halved. Talk to your timber suppliers; plan ahead for your needs, and together we will forge a profitable path, whatever the politicians have in store for us.