Concern mounts over key materials supply bottlenecks

Aaron Morby 6 months ago
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A shortage of construction products including roofing materials and timber is starting to impact on the building industry.

Both product manufacturers and builders’ merchants have raised concerns about growing supply side issues in key materials for the industry.

The Builders Merchants Federation said that some firms had reported August availability for some roofing products, while timber prices are surging by an average of 20%.

This comes on the back of sharp hikes in steel prices of up to 40% in recent months, which has been hitting structural steel and ductwork contractors.

Factors including high demand, coupled with escalating prices for shipping and delays at some British ports, are all having a major impact.

John Newcomb is chief executive of the BMF and co-chair of the Construction Leadership Council’s Brexit Movement of Building Products and Materials Group.

He said: “We’ve had a report of a merchant being quoted as far ahead as August availability for some roofing products, particularly pitched roof tiles.

“We are also facing significant issues with timber supplies.

“Merchants have seen an exceptional demand for building materials since the first lockdown.

Manufacturers and suppliers at the Construction Products Association also raised concerns about supplies in its trade survey for the final quarter of last year.

Rebecca Larkin, CPA Senior Economist said: “The welcome recovery in construction continues to drive the improving performance in the closely-linked product manufacturing industry, but pinchpoints are starting to emerge.

“At the end of last year, around one-fifth of product manufacturers noted that issues around material and component supply risked constraining activity over the next 12 months.

“For the heavy side, this was the highest proportion on record and highlights the effect that global supply issues for imported products such as steel and timber, as well as maritime transport logistics, are having on UK manufacturing and construction.

“Given expectations of continued recovery in activity throughout 2021, concerns over capacity, particularly if large numbers of staff are required to isolate due to coronavirus, were also notable among manufacturers.”

Lakes Showering, a family owned manufacturer and supplier of showering spaces, walk-ins and bath screens, which imports into the UK, via the China-Europe shipping route said container prices were soaring.

Sales and marketing director, Mike Tattam, said: “We are facing a perfect storm caused by a number of factors, including a shortage of containers because of unprecedented demand, ships mothballed with their containers and crew, and carriers reluctant to take bookings for the UK because of the congestion at UK ports.

“The latest development is that we’ve found the shipping companies are not even quoting contract rates, it’s all based on spot pricing, where you get what’s available at a price, on that day.

“Currently we are looking at the cost for a container of around $15,000. This time last year it was $2,100.

“We’ve even heard reports of costs going to $30,000, and that’s untenable.

“It’s having a very serious impact and it’s a situation that’s getting rapidly worse.”

 

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