In recent decades there has been a significant expansion of wood processing capacity in the UK, encompassing the production of sawn timber, wood based panel products and paper products. At the same time, there has been the development of the recovered wood supply chain, with the wood panel sector being a major consumer, alongside other markets for wood fibre of this type. More recently, the wood energy market has emerged. Significant volumes of British grown timber and recovered wood are being used for heat and/or power purposes and there is increasing interest in far greater utilisation of wood fibre, in various forms, sourced from the UK and overseas, by large scale electricity generation plants.
Production forecasts show that coniferous roundwood production in Britain is expected to increase until about 2020, with peak production of about 11.45 million tonnes per annum; thereafter production declines. Other types of wood fibre are also available in Britain, though their availability, as defined in the recent Clegg report, is similarly forecast to peak around 2019, giving a combined total of just over 20 million tonnes per annum, and thereafter declining.
It is vitally important that current and potential future users of British grown wood and other wood fibre available in Great Britain, including recovered wood, fully understand that wood fibre supply and demand is currently very finely balanced overall and that supply and demand may already be, or is anticipated to become, unbalanced in the relatively short term.
If new large users of British grown wood and other wood fibre enter the marketplace, supported by subsidy, then it can only be at the expense of existing users, impacting negatively and disproportionately on sustainability, employment, carbon sequestration, and mitigation of climate change. It is of considerable importance to society that the economic, social and environmental benefits provided by our sustainably managed forests are maximised.