Materials shortage beginning to impact construction sector 



A shortage of construction products including roofing materials and timber is starting to impact on the building industry, according to a leading industry trade body.

The Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) said it has received reports of some roofing products being unavailable until August, while timber prices are surging by an average of 20%.

The organisation, whose members represent a £38 billion slice of the construction industry supply chain, attributed the reports to factors including high demand, coupled with escalating prices for shipping and delays at some British ports. 

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. In November we saw an average growth of nine per cent across our membership compared to the same time last year. Looking at December’s figures, we are predicting that growth could be double digits, and that’s unprecedented.

“We know a number of roof tile manufacturers are taking extensive steps to meet this exceptional demand. Through the Construction Leadership Council, we are also working together with the government to address the issues we face, but it’s a complex situation with many different factors leading us into this position.”

The BMF is also looking into the massive surge in costs of building products shipped in containers from the Far East.

Mr Newcomb added: “As we reported late last year, we continue to see issues with the availability of products imported in containers, mainly from the Far East, such as screws and fixings, tools, plumbing items, bathroom suites and shower enclosures. Since then, the situation has only got worse.

“Our members manufacture 76% of building products in the UK. However, we need to ensure access to these goods from around the world, to keep the industry running.”

Lakes Showering, a manufacturer and supplier of showering spaces, walk-ins and bath screens, is a family-owned business, based in Tewkesbury, which imports into the UK, via the China-Europe shipping route.

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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