Timber pallet shortage
12 May 2014
Pallet manufacturers and warehouse operators using timber pallets face escalating costs through 2014 as a shortage of timber hits the wooden pallet market. This was the conclusion of a late 2013 meeting of the Timber Packaging a Pallet Confederation (TIMCON) that predicted a coming shortage of timber pallets.
The main problem is that British timber stocks are very low. There has been demand for timber as the construction sector has been picking up with the economy. But this was also affected by the severe storms and weather over winter that cut the availability of local wood.
Upswing in Overseas Markets
There has also been an upswing in timber demand in overseas markets, especially from China, the Middle East and Africa. Adding to the problems has been tightening supplies from traditional suppliers of timber to the British markets in Scandinavia and the Baltic countries.
Supplies of Canadian wood have been affected by insect attack, while growing demand in the United States market is putting pressure on other European suppliers. In addition, the building of timber-frame dwellings in Britain is set to rise.
As a result, 85 per cent of the timber used to make wooden pallets in Britain is sourced from domestic suppliers. Prices for wooden pallets were rising about 10 per cent per quarter in late 2013.
Speaking in March this year to industry media, Jim Hardisty, the managing director of Goplasticpallets.com, suggested that the time was right to invest in an alternative to wooden pallets. In the circumstances, plastic pallets were the best solution as far as cost, hygiene and durability were concerned.
However, Hardisty’s statement prompted a rapid reply from TIMCON general secretary Stuart Hex. He acknowledged that his organisation had issued an alert in late 2013 that there would be a squeeze on pallet timber supplies. Aside from a reviving construction sector, there was also an increased demand for timber for fencing in the aftermath of severe winter weather.
Hex claimed that plastic pallet suppliers had given distorted information on the market situation.
He said that there is a large gap between the prices of plastic and wooden pallets, and that wooden pallets are not in short supply in the British market.
He added that British pallet manufacturers were accustomed to fluctuations in timber supplies, depending on the seasons. There have been timber shortages in the past and the pallet manufacturing sector is able to cope with the situation.
Hex claimed that timber pallets account for 90 per cent of all pallets used in the U.K. and that, in contrast to plastic pallets, they remain the best option from the point of view of cost, environmental concerns, reparability and sustainability.