In recent years, tree pests and diseases have become of greater concern to woodland owners than ever before. This is particularly true of Ash dieback. The disease could have significant silvicultural, ecological and economic impacts if, or as many think, when it becomes truly entrenched across the UK.
One of the emerging schools of thought is that proactive management of the national ash resource is essential if the impacts of the disease are to be minimised. Amongst these impacts is the reduction in the economic value of diseased trees. It now seems pertinent to consider how to get the best value for threatened trees now rather than “waiting and seeing” what will happen to them in the longer term – such complacency risks compromising timber quality (and value).
The market for ash firewood persists, and remains to offer reasonable prices at around £45 – £50/t for processable timber at roadside. However, as ash dieback continues to spread across the country the influx of timber entering this market will inevitably increase, likely resulting in depressed prices.
Alternative markets for ash have been few and far between over the last decade, as the “white woods” have fallen out of favour – the domestic market for milling ash, for example, is now very small.
Necessity is the mother of all inventions and this set of circumstances has opened the door to an interesting new market in the UK. Taking inspiration from the Danish – who have been dealing with ash dieback for at least 5-10 years longer than we have – a small number of enterprising organisations have started buying milling ash for export to far-east Asia. The desire for white woods such as ash and beech is much greater in this part of the world, and means organisations like British Ash Exports and UK Log Exports are able to ship the timber passing twice across the equator and still offer a higher price to the woodland owner in the UK than they would get from most domestic markets.
Lockhart Garratt has recently arranged sales of both ash and beech into this market, allowing our clients to realise values of up to £95 per cubic metre for these domestically undervalued products. This timber will now be loaded into containers and shipped out to Vietnam and India where it will be used in the manufacture of internal skirting and architrave.
If you are a woodland owner with concerns about the future of your ash trees or want to realise a market for your beech please get in touch; we would be happy to discuss any opportunities that may be available to realise the economic value of your timber.