A warning that the UK could run out of wood has come from one of the country’s top timber companies.
Clifford Jones Timber is the UK’s largest manufacturer of timber fence posts, manufacturing over two and a half million a year at its two timber mills in Gretna, where it owns Hunter Wilson, and in North Wales.
But Penny Lloyd, Purchasing Director of the company which employs over 80 staff at the two plants, warned this week that a failure to meet planting targets was turning the UK into a tree-free zone and threatening an industry worth over £450 million a year.
She said: “The forest industry is an essential part of the economy, and together with its ancillary businesses, sustains many rural communities.
“An on-going programme of commercial timber planting is vital for the survival of our industry.
“Back in the 1970s we were planting over 7,000 acres of trees every year in Wales alone – in recent years it’s been less than 250 and this is a crop that takes 20 years plus to grow to maturity.
“We have lost over 40,000 acres of forestry in the last 15 years – that’s an area one and a half times the size of Liverpool – and that needs to be replaced if our timber industry is to survive.
“There seems to be an opposition to planting conifers but it makes sense in terms of the needs of both commercial forestry, and conservational and amenity woodlands.
“Forestry not only offers the perfect natural habitat for rare native species, such as the red squirrel, but provides massive environmental benefits such as carbon sequestration and the prevention of flooding and soil erosion.”
Clifford Jones Timber are proud of the fact that nothing from their purchase of over 100,000 tons of timber annually is wasted and that nothing leaves their premises at Gretna and at Ruthin, in Denbighshire, without an invoice.
They use the wood, bark and all, to make not just fence posts but laminated timber for the construction and leisure industries, gates and dried logs and they provide the residue to make over 25,000 tons of pellets and briquettes.
Clifford Jones Timber chairman chairman Richard Jones added: “Our business is very efficient, we maximise what we can recover from the timber we purchase, we don’t produce a ‘waste’ product, everything is utilised. Because of the shortage of home grown timber we have to make the most of everything we buy.
“We are constantly looking at ways of diversifying so that we get the maximum from the timber we bring in through the gates but that is in increasingly short supply because of lack of investment since the 1990s.
“Only just over 200 acres were planted last year but we need to be planting 50,000 acres a year to meet long-term targets set by the Welsh Government.
“The situation is just as bad in England although in Scotland the Governments attitude towards the forest industry is marginally better.
“There’s a huge market for our timber. Every sawmill would double or treble production if the timber was there to feed the mills.”
Clifford Jones Timber was founded in 1948 and is now headed by chairman Richard Jones, and commercial director Sarah Jones-Smith, his sister, the third generation of the family.
They send shipments of their fence posts as far afield as the Falkland Islands while other clients for their timber products have included Center Parcs, a luxury treehouse builder, award-winning vineyards and a deck-chair company.