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arboriculturist

The future of British timber availability

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Looking at the current rate of harvesting in England alone, I am concerned that in well under a decade, timber availability will decline and prices will rocket.

 

We are all aware of the many new Biomass Power Stations that are coming online annually to take advantage of the generous taxpayer funded tariffs available to them. This has led to an unprecedented level of timber harvesting that cannot be sustained for any length of time, as Britain's forests and woodland are being felled at an alarming rate.

 

A haulier that comes to us has spent 4 months in Wiltshire, parked roadside in forestry plantation, loading 6 flats every day on turnaround to Sandwich Biomass Plant in Kent, then travelling back empty. So much for the environment. Near month end when the monthly quota has not been met, on go the sawlogs to meet the quota level for the month to avoid penalties being levied on the harvesting company.

 

Sandwich is taking circa. 250,000 tonnes of British timber per year and that is only 1 electricity producing biomass plant of many up and down the UK.

 

We already import around 75% of timber used in the UK, depending on what data you read.

 

 

The future for firewood producers in Britain is not looking great, many of whom have invested tens of thousands in establishing their businesses, unless age is on your side and you have the funds and availability of land to establish short rotation Eucalyptus or similar plantation for your own production supply.

 

I look forward to hearing differing views on the future of timber availability in Britain.

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There has been a big change in the last 10 years with in the supply of timber, 10-12 years ago i was buying windblown larch and spruce for £600 and that included haulage out of north Wales, for a capped wagon and drag about 18 tonne so it was cut split and sell day after, around the same i was picking up wagon loads of hardwood Ash ,Beech,Cherry,Oak ,sycamore etc from the local estates and some of this had been roadside for 12 months or more and that was £800 a load, Today your lucky if you can find a load and if you do it will be top dollar, i was looking at a job in oct last year that was to start mar/april this year and all 2100 tonne of timber was sold all ready for biomass, but it was not cheap either he had been offered £57.50p per tonne roadside and most of that was dead ash and small hardwood thinings.

One guy who i am in touch with regularly is a harvesting manager for one of the big players in uk forestry and there aim along with one or two other of the bigger set ups is to shorten the crop rotation down to 25-30 years and chip whole trees on site, this practice will hurt a lot of people in the firewood sector and leave them with 2 options 1) carry on as you are and not move forward ,or 2) import firewood thus putting more pressure on the resources of timber in eastern europe, personally i think we will get to a stage where timber or should i say firewood will be a high class luxury as it will be so expensive. unless we have a massive turnaround in the way we create our electric,

And as to put in another example of Government organisation fuck up, the power station at Locherbie was designed to take and run of all chip from the brash coming out of commercial forestry in southwest scotland and the boarders, but again they are running in with wagon after wagon load of good 3.7mtr saw logs, so who ever was in charge of the mathes on that project needs to get back to school, one thing that jumps to mind on this is Clint Eastwood in the film, A few dollars more, where right at the end he says to Lee vanclife, thought i was having trouble with my adding there old man,

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Probably a stupid question but will the forestry commission not stop us from decimating our woodlands? Sure supply and demand will push prices up  but hopefully production will remain stable 

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11 minutes ago, Woodworks said:

Probably a stupid question but will the forestry commission not stop us from decimating our woodlands? Sure supply and demand will push prices up  but hopefully production will remain stable 

No, unfortunately not.

 

The switch about 20 years ago from replacing all conifer with frequently restocking with native broadleaves means that we have tens of thousands of acres of economically non productive squirrel food and ash dieback as opposed to productive woodland. 

 

I'm getting very disillusioned with UK forestry to honest with you. The issue is that it's systemic. It starts at the planning stage, where woodlands have been situated on extremely difficult land (from a harvesting perspective). The trees are then not thinned correctly (due to lack of economic feasibility), resulting in reduced yield and quality. The final use of the product now seems to either large scale sawmills (who stubbornly won't put prices up, despite having empty yards at present) or large scale, RHI backed biomass consumers. 

 

And then you've got the conflict between the ecological brigade, who won't permit summer harvesting, and the forestry contractors, who basically can't work most sites at this time of year. With a winter like this, there is almost no where that can be sustainably harvested, unless using low impact gear.

 

In short, we already import 80% of our timber and we will see a further reduction in national availability. There is renewed interest in tree planting now on account of carbon sequestration, but there is going to be an uncomfortable gap in supply. We're planting 75 acres of new woodland this spring, and we intend to do quite a lot more than that in 2021, but it's still a drop in the ocean, even if it is around 25% of all the new woodland creation in Devon and Somerset (by my best guess) for this planting season.

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Liking the humour - SPUDDOG 😀

 

THIS MAY OR MAY NOT PROVE TO BE THE MOST IMPORTANT POST THIS DECADE FOR FIREWOOD PRODUCERS.

 

Chain of custody : The 'Landowners' need to take back control !

 

"That's agreed then, our harvesting company will pay you £13/tonne for your standing timber for that 21 acre block of Larch and £15/tonne those 2 blocks of mixed Hardwoods - Terms: payment on uplift " - " Oh and by the way, it will all be going to be chipped for biomass to produce electricity which you will be subsidising from the tax you pay to HMRC".

 

In reality, I wonder how many Landowners actually are aware of where exactly their timber they sell to the harvesting companies goes, if they were its guaranteed that at least a proportion would be looking elsewhere to sell their standing timber.

 

I would urge people who are in a situation to do so, to work on woodland / plantation owners they know to educate them where possible about the whole Biomass for power industry.

 

We need more harvesting independents like Big J. who actually cares where the timber he harvests goes and works hard to ensure a sustainable long term future for Firewood producers and the mills.

Edited by arboriculturist

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WWW.BUTLERSHERBORN.CO.UK

Prices for clearfells of good quality softwood are £70 standing and have crept above this for easily accessible parcels with high saw log content. The demand for pallet wood and chipwood thinning

Price of standing timber !! I was trying to find a link to where I had read of a parcel going for £90 a tonne standing in keilder but can’t find it now.

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1 hour ago, MattyF said:

 

WWW.BUTLERSHERBORN.CO.UK

Prices for clearfells of good quality softwood are £70 standing and have crept above this for easily accessible parcels with...


Price of standing timber !! I was trying to find a link to where I had read of a parcel going for £90 a tonne standing in keilder but can’t find it now.

It did go for that but it was top notch timber that had been managed very well and it was not small either i heard a rummer from someone who knew the guys who felled it and i heard that the average DBH was around the 850mm

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15 hours ago, MattyF said:

 

WWW.BUTLERSHERBORN.CO.UK

Prices for clearfells of good quality softwood are £70 standing and have crept above this for easily accessible parcels with high saw log content. The demand for pallet wood and...


Price of standing timber !! I was trying to find a link to where I had read of a parcel going for £90 a tonne standing in keilder but can’t find it now.

That article is a year old and the prices are considerably lower now.

 

If in any doubt as to the lack of sustainability in the UK forestry industry, the high log price caused a spike in clearfelling, and as such getting saplings for the 19/20 season has been near enough impossible, as the nurseries have been caught short.

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