New Welsh marketing mix - Woodlands for Wales timber sales strategy

Wood Focus magazine
25 Apr 2011
Timber frame construction and joinery in a housing development at Tregynon

All images courtesy of FC Picture Library / John McFarlane 

About 14% of Wales is covered by woodlands (about 291,000 hectares (ha)), of which 125,000ha are owned by the Welsh Assembly Government.

The Assembly Government’s strategy, Woodlands for Wales, sets out the aims and objectives for all woodlands and trees in Wales, many of which relate to the sale of timber from its own reserves. These include maintaining the production of timber to help woodland-related enterprises and create jobs, as well as encouraging the use of more Welshgrown timber in Wales to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint.

The Assembly Government’s woodlands are managed by Forestry Commission Wales, which sells timber to customers, such as sawmillers, processors and contractors. The Commission has published a new marketing strategy that sets out guiding principles for how it will sell timber over the next five years. The objectives are to –

  • Secure best value for the people of Wales by offering timber for sale in a fair, open and transparent way.
  • Offer timber to the market in ways that allow the greatest practicable number of customers to compete for it, and in ways that recognise the business needs of customers and enable them to add the greatest possible value to it.
  • Offer timber in ways that support investment in the whole supply chain, from harvesting through to processing, and which focus on areas where that supply chain is weaker.
  • Offer timber in ways that encourage its use to best effect to help Wales reduce its carbon footprint.

The strategy commits the Commission to continuing production at current levels – 770,000m3

 over bark standing, of which 430,000m3 will be log and bar.

Log on

Hugh Jones of the Commission’s harvesting and marketing operation says, ‘The timber marketing strategy’s focus is on ensuring the right type of timber gets to the right place – by doing that we will meet the strategy’s objectives. We want to support our customers who use timber for construction, furniture making, fencing and particleboard manufacture – products that lock carbon away from the atmosphere for many years. In addition, where appropriate, we will help avoid fossil carbon emissions by providing fuel for heating and electrical generation.’

The Commission sells timber from the public estate in a number of different ways, such as standing timber and logs at the roadside. The marketing strategy makes a commitment to continue this mix of production so customers can decide on the best use for the available timber. It also guarantees to offer a minimum of four electronic tender sales every year – this year there will be at least six sales.

‘We try to offer timber from the Assembly Government’s estate in such a way that as wide a range of possible customers can buy it,’ says Jones. ‘This means large, as well as small quantities, logs at the roadside and standing trees, and we will carry on selling mainly on the open market through our e-sales system.’

The Commission also wants to encourage investment in the industry by continuing to offer a suite of long-term contracts for the supply of timber – albeit with a tighter focus on supporting investment in timber harvesting, especially thinning, in difficult areas.

Fired up

Publication of the new timber marketing strategy coincides with an increase in market demand for timber as a fuel – a trend that Jones anticipates will continue.

The strategy states that Forestry Commission Wales will continue to support the establishment of the biomass market but, in order to mitigate a possible ‘rush to fuelwood’, it will allow time for the market to develop and mature by having a mix of marketing and sales methods. ‘The debate about how to get the maximum benefit from timber use in Wales and the rest of the UK is complex,’ says Jones. ‘The emerging markets for woodfuel and biomass have created exciting opportunities for low-grade material, but we need to try to accommodate these in a way that allays the concerns of our traditional customers. ‘We believe that the best way for us to contribute is by selling timber so that it can be used for a long time in a building, or item of furniture, and then burnt. However, not all our timber is suitable for use in this way. Some low-grade woody material, like branches and twisted stems, or timber which is a long way from the user, may be best sold locally for use as a fuel to make electricity or heat.’

Either way, new markets and demand for timber are good news generally for timber growers. An increase in marketing options means that more woodland owners are likely to bring their woodlands into active management, thus increasing the total amount of timber available and allowing woodlands to contribute more to the Welsh rural economy.

All the timber sold from Assembly Government woodlands carries the internationally recognised Forest Stewardship Council logo. The Forestry Commission, Wales outlines in the marketing strategy how it will continue to deliver the requirements of this scheme. It must also comply with the requirements of the UK Woodland Assurance Standard, and is registered with the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification scheme.

The new timber marketing strategy builds on the previous five-year one, which put in place the building blocks for a competitive forest industry.

‘The forest industry is worth at least £370m a year to the Welsh economy and employs in the region of 8,900 people in Wales,’ adds Jones. ‘We hope this new marketing strategy will help to further develop skills and create more jobs in enterprises associated with woodland and timber, as well as providing opportunities for new enterprises to develop and compete for timber supplies.’

Forestry Commission Wales consulted widely on the draft of the strategy to ensure it addresses the industry’s hopes and concerns.

Quinton Davies, owner and Managing Director of James Davies Abercych Ltd, a sawmiller in west Wales, says, ‘We really value the continuity of timber supplies from Assembly Government woodlands – it is vital to the success of our business that we have secure timber supplies.’

The versatility of timber means it is increasingly sought after for different uses and there are many ways in which the sale of timber from its woodland estate can help the Assembly Government deliver its forestry objectives.

Jones sums up, ‘Put simply, our aim is to harvest and market timber sustainably from the Assembly Government woodland estate and to get the right log to the right place.’  

Further information

For a copy of Forestry Commission Wales’s timber marketing strategy, visit