As someone who works in the kitchen industry it was interesting to read that Government ministers and MPs have been warned that the level of biofuel subsidies in the UK are damaging British manufacturing by causing raw material prices to rocket.
The findings were in a report commissioned by Furniture Industry Research Association FIRA and the British Furniture Confederation (BFC), which showed that the price of wood had risen more than 55% in the past five years alone, which has resulted in furniture manufacturers being forced to compete with energy companies. The news does shed some light on timber prices which until the report the kitchen industry just assumed to be increasing with ever other raw material, commodity and service.
The problems started in 2002 when the Government introduced a subsidy to compensate electricity generators for burning renewable fuel, including wood and wood products. The subsidy is paid via consumers, through their electricity bills, which has other implications when fuel and energy bills are at an all time high. Many consumers would also question whether burning timber is truly renewable when compared to the likes of wind turbines, hydroelectric and tidal power generation.
There is now mounting pressure on the Government to reform the wood biomass subsidy to prevent it damaging UK manufacturers and retailers further and undermining the already fragile economy.
The most sustainable way of using wood would be for it to go through a lifecycle from planting to manufacturing before being recycled and eventually burnt for energy and in such times of scarce land and resources it seems ludicrous that this practice is continuing. Worryingly, over recent years there has been a year on year increase in the burning of virgin timber, which is putting strain on the availability of sustainable supplies and whilst waste wood material can be burnt for fuel, it is obviously not suitable for the manufacturing industry which needs the virgin timber.
Although timber prices have been increasing, it must also be noted that the problem is only expected to get worse as the UK, European and Global economies return to growth and the demand on virgin timber rises through increased manufacturing and house building.
Whilst, the recession has forced many kitchen firms under, with recent high profile scalps being Moben and Kitchens Direct, it is difficult to see how many others won’t fall by the wayside unless a more practical solution is adopted in respect of growing timber and the uses for which it is grown for, and or subsidies given.