Grown in Britain                            DEF0027

Written evidence submitted by Grown in Britain

Response to UK Government sustainable timber and deforestation consultation Sept 2022

 

Grown in Britain operates at every stage of the timber supply chain, from tree nursery, to new and existing woodlands, to primary and secondary processors, to retail and finally the end consumer. As such we are uniquely placed to observe trends and filter market feedback from, the timber sector here in the UK.

 

Growing the UK Timber Industry

 

Q. Does the UK Govt have an adequate understanding of the future demand for timber, including what tree species should be planted.

 

GiB Response

Recent events have highlighted the speed with which supply chains can switch from functional to fractured. The resulting switch in focus of businesses to UK grown timber has been dramatic and has boosted what was already a growth area, creating pressure points in supply.

In short, feedback from the marketplace is that there is not enough timber in the long term pipeline to supply the increasing demand.

There is a need to invest in the planting of mixed productive woodland and in research to demonstrate practical uses for species such as poplar, sycamore, Sweet chestnut and also in utilizing combinations of timbers to deliver durability with strength, weight with strength, etc.

A combination planting programme of fast growing conifers and slower maturing hardwoods is needed, with focus on climate resilience, bringing species from five degrees south and beyond and looking for a range of species to deliver resistance to pests as well as temperature changes.

We have fantastic conifers in this country! But they are often overlooked or wrongly categorized as detrimental to biodiversity.

 

 

Q. Does the UK government working with the devolved administrations have an effective, joined up plan with appropriate incentives to increase the production and use of sustainable, domestically grown timber in the UK to reduce its reliance on imports?

 

GiB Response

 

Govt support in England for industry innovation is strong at present with funding available to support woodland creation/management, processing and manufacturing. GiB would like to see this innovation feed into strengthened supply chains in the sector with the removal of regulatory barriers, that threaten to stifle the innovative before it has the chance to embed (see TPP comments below).

Processes to encourage and formalise the sharing of best practice amongst the devolved nations are needed. A lot of time and money is diverted into re-inventing the wheel. All of our GiB R&D is England based and whilst the outcomes of our research will hopefully impact across the UK and will be shared as such, it would be better to see cross border programmes taking place with equivalent funding packages to encourage innovation nationwide.

 

 

 

Q. Are there sustainable sources of biomass for UK energy generation either from imported or domestically grown wood for pellet or woodchip? And how can future demand be met from sustainable sources?

 

GiB Response

GiB’s certification covers a number of domestic woodchip/pellet producers. These businesses are currently responding to the loss of 30-40% of their imported stock due to the sanctions imposed against Russia. A plentiful supply of ash is ensuring that whilst under strain, the supply chain is still functioning. Although warnings of 100% increase in costs this winter are starting to filter through in price increases of 40% to date.

Whilst ash is plugging a gap at present as large quantities are felled as a result of ash dieback, sustainable feedstock is another matter. Research is needed into fast growing ‘crops’ of biomass integrated with new and existing woodland design, demonstrating the potential of incorporating energy feedstock into woodland design.

There is also a distinct lack of data on completed Short Rotation Forestry (SRF) trials available in the UK and none on biomass feedstocks in LRF. GiB would like to see research supported in this area and has previously proposed incorporating this into the Canopy metrics to illustrate the potential benefits.

In summary there is a lack of evidence based data and effective tools at present, to allow landowners to make decisions on growing biomass feedstocks. This directly impacts the security and sustainability of a domestic supply once our ash stocks are consumed.

 

 

Q. How well is the UK government managing its plans for the domestic timber industry in tandem with meeting its woodland creation targets and related climate change, biodiversity and other environmental goals?

 

GiB Response

A lot of our energy at GiB is focused on helping business who want to support homegrown timber, address the current obstacles to using it.

In essence there are too many entrenched regulations and business processes acting as barriers to the use of homegrown certified timber.

Our Timber Procurement Policy favours international certification over GiB certification and makes those businesses who want to use homegrown certified timber jump through hoops to achieve category B status when GiB should automatically be Category A. Whilst we are aware that the TPP has been under review for over a year now, it would be good to see some progress in this area.

Building standards have been developed around international certification schemes and are excruciatingly slow to change to support an equivalent UK based certification.

Many corporate policies focus on FSC and PEFC and until there is a level playing field for certification schemes in the TPP, there is an active disincentive for them to alter this.

There are some notable gaps in our domestic timber sector when it comes to providing a full complement of construction products, notably plywood, engineered board and fibre board insulation. We want a stock of housing that is well insulated and fit for purpose, and that has a low environmental impact; this is hard to achieve when imports are the only option and demand is only going to increase for these items.

There is a gap in terms of funding support for businesses wanting to invest in processing machinery to replace imports with homegrown products. Or if there is funding available it is not widely known about. To kickstart the transition from imported plywood/boards/veneer to a homegrown option requires significant investment in machinery that even second hand, can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. Support in this area could have considerable positive impact on local economies, reduced emissions and woodland management.

 

Q. How Effectively is the UK strengthening the resilience of its tree stock to ensure it is resilient to the future impacts of climate change as well as to pests and diseases?

 

GiB Response

Our work as a certification body for the Plant Healthy biosecurity scheme involves applying the Plant Health Management Standard (PHMS) to tree nurseries in the UK and potentially abroad also.

As the PHMS is applied across more and more of the sector it is raising lots of questions and identifying lots of gaps; one example being how do we ensure that growing media is free from pests and diseases; and another, are imported tree stakes treated to prevent them acting as carriers for pests and diseases?

The PHMS is acting as a catalyst in highlighting areas that require attention and allowing an assessment of the risk posed and generating a prioritized list of areas to be addressed. In the instance of the growing media, it is clear that no standardized assessment exists and this represents a risk to the sector that needs addressing. Also is ISPM15 which covers all material that accompanies planting stock like woodpackaging and dunnage, being appropriately applied? Indications are that it is not.

Research needs to be funded to properly take these identified gaps that are being thrown up by the PHMS and prioritise and address them. Providing effective guidance for the sector to reduce the risk of a P&D outbreak and subsequent transmission.

 

There is a requirement that all growers issuing plant passports must have an understanding of the current list of notifiable pests that affect their business and the potential impact. However there are large gaps in this knowledge and more needs to be done to disseminate this information in a practical way.

 

We would also like to see a mandatory requirement for Plant Healthy certification for all tree planting stock for public procurement, including local authorities and private sector grant schemes.

 

 

In addition whilst there is much activity in the sector for professionals, there needs to be more public engagement with the issue of P&D. The #don’triskit campaign is an good start but doesn’t go far enough in highlighting the consequences of bringing P&D back into the country from travels abroad.

 

Deer and squirrel damage to our woodlands represents a significant threat to govt woodland creation and management targets and the facts about this need bringing to the general publics attention.

 

On the resilience to climate change front we have built in filters to our Canopy woodland creation metric to ensure that woodlands have a good chance of coping with climate change.

Public perceptions around ‘native’ trees being the best solution for woodland creation need addressing and a communications piece to explain the need for resilient planting alongside the necessary biosecurity messages about imports would be a worthwhile challenge.

 

September 2022