UK material shortages

UK material shortages: cement and aggregates added to the list - 08 APR 2021 BY JOSHUA STEIN

Cement, aggregates and plastic products have been added to the growing list of items in short supply in the UK, the Construction Leadership Council has revealed. The products have been added to a shortages list that includes timber, steel, roof tiles, bricks and imported products such as screws, fixing, plumbing items, sanitaryware and electrical products. Builders Merchants Federation chief executive John Newcomb and Construction Products Association chief executive Peter Caplehorn have warned that high demand for construction products is set to continue through 2021 and supply problems are expected to get worse in the short term.

Newcomb and Caplehorn, who are co-chairs of CLC Product Availability work group, said plastics production is being held back by a shortage of raw materials, which will continue for at least two to three months. Steel prices are also expected to climb further due to global dynamics, despite an anticipated rebalance in supply and demand in the coming months.

The council highlighted timber availability as a growing concern, as production levels are not meeting global demand. Timber supply in the UK could be under threat of decreasing further as other countries have said they will pay more to access the material, Newcomb and Caplehorn said. However, supplies of plaster and plasterboard have markedly improved on last year’s levels, they added.

Contractors are urged to order supplies early for upcoming projects, but must be prepared for increased demand and longer delays.

The report is the first since the government asked the CLC last month to monitor material shortages on a quarterly basis. It comes following reports of shortages and price hikes in recent months.

The Builders Merchants Federation first warned in January that high demand, escalating prices and shipping delays were drastically affecting material availability, particularly at small firms. The BMF said roofing supplies were hardest hit by the drop in supply.

Paul Hooper, chief executive of drainage and building envelopes company Alumasc, said in February that increasing raw materials prices could increase contractor costs by between 4 and 5 per cent. He added that the inflation could be short-lived as the pandemic begins to slow down and raw material availability increases.

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