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Garden fencing firms in mini-crisis

Demand for timber is outstripping supply

DIY firms were today struggling to keep up with demand for garden fencing after a series of problems plunged the market into a mini-crisis.

Demand for the traditional ‘lap’ fencing panels – a feature of countless gardens across the UK – has soared following wet and windy weather, while lower production in timber producing countries has reduced stocks.

Major construction projects in Dubai and China and a new export levy imposed in Russia have added to the supply problem.

DIY retailer B&Q said demand for the panels, which typically sell at between £15 and £20 a unit, is currently outstripping supply. The key selling periods for the panels are spring and autumn, when fencing chores are most commonly tackled.

Supply problems

A spokesman said: ‘We are still getting deliveries to our stores but it is not keeping pace with demand at the moment.’

Builders’ merchant Travis Perkins said demand for fence panels has been running at three times its usual level. A spokesman said: ‘This has caused some supply problems, but we are confident of meeting all demand by the end of this month.’

The Fencing Contractors Association (FCA), which represents about 250 fencing firms, admitted there was a crisis but urged customers not to put prices up.

Nick Boulton, Director of Technical Policy at the British Timber Trade Federation (BTTF), added: ‘There has been a definite tightening of supply over the Easter period.

‘We will certainly see a shortage for the next couple of months before supply keeps up with demand.’

Fence panels

The shortage has been caused by a wet summer followed by a mild winter in Russia, Scandinavian and Baltic countries which made it more difficult to harvest the softwood logs from which the panels are made.

The BTTF also said that major Scandinavian producers such as Swedish firm SCA had reduced production capacity in recent years due to falling timber prices.

Mr Boulton added: ‘Wood has been undervalued in recent years and people could not afford to process it, especially in Sweden and Finland.’

The FCA added that timber suppliers and UK sawmills were currently unable to confirm delivery dates to fencing firms whose customers were expecting deadlines to be met.

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