Market Update – Autumn 2020

Market Update – Autumn 2020

Brexit – ISPM 15 Heat Treatment status

As the end of the UK’s transition period approaches on 31st December 2020 the current position advised by the Department of Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is that it will be a legal requirement for all controlled wooden packaging material (WPM), including pallets, crates, boxes, cable drums, spools and dunnage, moving between the UK and the EU to be compliant with the stringent requirements of International Standard for Phytosanitary Measure No. 15 (ISPM15) and may be subject to official checks either upon entry to the EU or after entry.

Since 2002, the UK has been part of the EU ISPM 15 exemption i.e. the EU area is treated as one country, with no borders and no requirement for wood packaging materials (WPM) to be ISPM 15 compliant. The purpose of the regulation is to prevent or reduce the risk of spreading quarantine pests found in WPM. ISPM15 heat treatment carried out on timber pallets is natural and environmentally friendly; it does not use any chemicals. This heat treatment (HT) involves placing pallets in a chamber where the wood is subject to its core temperature reaching a minimum of 56°C for at least 30 minutes, thereby eliminating all harmful organisms likely to attack standing plants.

The early considerations of Brexit and the loss of EU exemption status raised some concerns regarding the capability of UK and EU manufacturers to be in a position to meet the ISPM 15 demand come the 1st January 2021. However, for the last 12 months the industry has been looking to increase capacity through measures such as increasing shifts or investment in additional kilns. However, as we have now received formal Government notification that this topic is no longer on the negotiating table, we are actively encouraging that planning should be underway if this matter affects you. We shall continue to provide updates but, as it stands, the following criteria must be met:


  • WPM going from UK mainland, through NI and into ROI – need to be HT
  • WPM going from UK Mainland direct to ROI – need to be HT
  • WPM going from UK mainland to an EU destination – need to be HT
  • WPM going from UK Mainland to NI – need to be HT (but not vice- versa)
  • WPM coming from an EU destination to mainland UK – need to be HT
  • WPM coming from ROI through NI and into UK mainland – need to be HT  (assuming that they are only transiting NI)
  • WPM coming from ROI direct to UK mainland – need to be HT
  • WPM going between NI & ROI – are exempt and do not need to be HT 


ISPM15 accredited suppliers include:

Suppliers that invest in experienced account managers with credible technical support have the potential to add real customer value, at a time when buyers may be struggling to manage a commodity currently exposed to the influences of political change. To access support and begin a conversation, contact us to discuss your business’ needs:

Or to find out more about our range of sustainable pallets solutions visit:

You can find our guide to heat treatment and kiln-dried pallets here.

Market Trends

UK or Baltic pallet timber remains the choice for the pallet and packaging industry and as we emerge from the immediate post-COVID lockdown environment, a number of factors are contributing to putting pressure on availability, and subsequently price, as we approach Q4 of 2020. These factors are evident at both a UK and global level.

Whilst not as extreme as we are seeing in the USA, prices for all construction and fencing sections in the UK are already at record levels with serious shortages in some sizes. In any ‘normal’ year, the seasonal cycle would see increased availability in Q4 with timber prices settling or falling as fencing and construction demand falls away but this is not a normal year, with mills quoting long lead times on new orders. It seems certain that timber prices will remain strong and rise through Q4 and into Q1 after which the picture is a lot less certain.

Despite the fact that UK pallet demand is not particularly strong, we are not immune to what is happening in other sectors, and in fact, the pallet industry often has to compete with the fencing sector for core and side board production. Whilst things are extremely uncertain, we currently expect to see timber prices increase for the remainder of the year. It is worth noting that construction and fencing have already seen unprecedented price increases.

Many timber consumers had already been paying a premium for timber supply during the lockdown period anyway as a result of reduced or closed mill capacity but notable market influences now bringing the above pressure to bear include:

  • Increased demand in the construction sector as the economic recovery, in the short-term at least, advances at an aggressive pace
  • The DIY / domestic projects market fuelling increased demand both during and after lockdown
  • Stockholdings at mills were eroded to unprecedented low levels during COVID lockdown
  • UK & European mills now operating at full capacity
  • High (Brexit driven) demand anticipated as we move towards the end of the UK’s transition period on 31st December 2020
  • Global demand is similarly high including the USA experiencing a particularly buoyant housing market, which is proving to be very attractive to both Scandinavian and German mills who would ordinarily look to the UK market
  • Concerns regarding the issuing of tree felling licenses in Ireland are raising concerns regarding log availability come the end of Q4 2020 and into Q1 2021

European, quarterly timber price movements are well documented in a number of respected, independent indices including the FEFPEB Pallet Timber Price Index covering UK, Germany, Netherlands, Italy and Sweden, the German HPE, French CEEB and UK Afry indices (all available either online or from your account manager).

The Chancellor announces a green economic ‘kick start’

During recent months a number of reports and studies have come out stating that the UK is not on track to become net-zero by 2050, most notable being the recent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) report, “Reducing UK emissions: 2020 Progress Report to Parliament”. The CCC found that the target for 2028-32 is likely to be missed unless the Government takes further measures to reduce emissions across the board, including from construction. A key recommendation highlighted at the time was the need to ‘rapidly upscale the use of wood in construction’. The Government has been urged to seize upon these recommendations and the current momentum for a green economic recovery to combat climate change and to create thousands of ‘green jobs’.

Recent mini-budget statements and countless reports have told us that through a green approach we will not only create more jobs, reduce carbon emissions and save the planet, but we will also emerge from Brexit a much more united country that is benefitting everyone in society. By using wooden packaging materials (WPM) – and more specifically by RE-USING them rather than just RECYCLING them – businesses will be helping the country achieve the net-zero target timeline the UK Government set of 2050 and indeed the Scottish Government’s target of 2045.

WPM acts like a carbon safe as all the CO2 collected whilst the tree was growing actually remains in the wood fibres until the wood finally reaches its end of the lifecycle. Every cubic metre of wood used in your business reduces your CO2 emissions by around 2 tonnes – this includes 0.9 tonnes absorbed as the tree grows.

A typical wooden pallet contains approximately 27.5kg of absorbed CO2. It continues to store the carbon until the end of its’ useful life. By using WPM optimised using the Pallet Design Software (PDS) we deploy to maximise their life-cycle, and by having them RE-USED by engaging with our pallet recovery service, businesses will be able to show their customers that they are being environmentally responsible, commercially aware, and playing their part in the green recovery.

Back to news

Related Articles

Sign up for our newsletter

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.