Survey demonstrates scale of UK wooden pallet and packaging market

The Timber Packaging & Pallet Confederation (TIMCON) has revealed the results of its timber pallet and packaging survey, in collaboration with the Forestry Commission. The report gives an overview of the UK packaging and pallet business, including production and repair.

Presenting the results at TIMCON’s general meeting earlier this month, Guy Watt of John Clegg Consulting Ltd said that in 2015 the sector used over 380 million board feet of home-grown timber, with TIMCON members representing 70 per cent of this business. There are approximately 250 million wooden pallets in circulation in the UK, with more than 42 million new pallets added to the supply chain and 39 million pallet repairs carried out.

TIMCON’s membership employs a total of 2,994 people at 120 sites across the country.

John Dye, President of TIMCON, said: “We are really pleased to unveil the results of this vital collaboration between TIMCON and the Forestry Commission, which provides us with an overview of our industry that is unparalleled by other associations around the world. Not only does it illustrate overall the substantial size of our business, it also highlights our prominence as an outlet for UK sawn timber and as an employer.

“This survey gives TIMCON members an essential overview of the industry and gives us the fundamental starting point for our discussions with Government agencies and NGOs. It is the cornerstone for our lobbying efforts, and the basis for creating a legislative environment that encourages the use of the most environmentally and economically sustainable choice of raw material: wood.”

Dye said that previous lobbying to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for correct measurement had paid off, with the result that the organization’s figures for new pallet production are now very close to those in TIMCON’s reporting.

David Hopkins, managing director of the Timber Trades Federation (TTF) gave a presentation on the impact of Brexit on the timber industry. A survey of TTF members revealed although almost 60% thought Brexit has had a negative impact on their business to date, approximately 30% of people believed the situation would become more positive into the future, with a further 35% giving a ‘don’t know’ answer.

Currency fluctuations have caused a great deal of uncertainty, he said, while access to the single market was the biggest concern for timber-based industries and as such is a priority for industry lobbying.

Hopkins said the TTF was taking a proactive approach to Brexit, meeting EU partners and participating in EU trade bodies, collaborating with supply chain organisations to stimulate growth in the market, and carrying out a strong programme of lobbying to MPs. He added that TTF members should support this process to highlight the economic potential of the wood-based industries.

In his presentation about the expected impact of Brexit on the UK forest sector, Martin Bishop, national manager for Wales at not-for-profit organisation Confor, said Brexit had the potential to encourage more tree plantings. If the UK were to leave the Common Agricultural Policy as a result of Brexit, agricultural subsidies will be under pressure; and this could make planting more attractive, as CAP has been a limiting factor. He added that leaving the EU could give scope to develop more robust protection for UK forestry.

Gabriel Roberts of the French Institute of Technology for forest-based and furniture sectors (FCBA) spoke about the organization’s work on a portable control tool for ISPM 15, which it is developing at for France’s Agriculture and Technology department.

Dye said: “This is very interesting research on ISPM 15 and we are looking forward to seeing the results. This and other presentations at our general meeting illustrate the benefits our industry gets from having close liaison with our European colleagues. The implications of Brexit will become clearer in the months ahead and TIMCON remains committed to upholding its central position in Europe as a key player in FEFPEB. This will benefit our membership and the industry as a whole.”

TIMCON will hold its annual general meeting in Dublin on September 5th. Details will be posted on the recently relaunched TIMCON website.