New testing regimes and price rises beginning to cause headaches

Rising uncertainties are causing concern despite easing pressure for materials, the co-chairs of the Construction Leadership Council’s product availability working group have warned.

In a joint statement, John Newcomb, chief executive of the Builders Merchants Federation, and Peter Caplehorn, chief executive of the Construction Products Association, said while demand had eased from the high levels seen at the start of the year, many firms were still concerned about the uncertainty in the market.

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Imported bricks are propping up a shortfall in domestic supply, the update said

The pair said: “Uncertainty is now cited as a broad area of concern. Examples include the uncertainty around inflation and the pricing of products, particularly in relation to steel, cement, bricks, blocks, glass and ceramic tiles, which are all impacted by rising energy costs.

“Uncertainty around potential spikes in the number of covid cases over the winter having an adverse effect on product availability. The impact of full border controls that come into force at the end of this year is a further unknown, as is the implementation of the new UK CA Mark and UK Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & Restriction of Chemicals regulations.”

The update added that while the market is no longer experiencing the extremely high levels of demand seen earlier in the year, and UK manufacturers remain at full production capacity, demand continues to outstrip supply for certain products, particularly those being imported.

It said: “The current picture is more positive than seen in recent months, with improved availability of most products across most regions.

“There are, of course, exceptions, with ongoing challenges in the supply of bricks, blocks and roofing products, where timber battens have overtaken concrete roof tiles as the most difficult to obtain, and certain electro-technical products.”

The update said brick supply presented a longer-term issue and that imported products were helping to meet a shortfall in current UK capacity until new lines come on stream in 2023 and 2024.

In the electrotechnical sector, products with electronic components and those made from steel, such as cable trays, remained in short supply, while twin and earth cable had become more problematic.

The update said here product pricing continued to be a challenge, particularly for medium-sized contractors working on tight fixed-price contracts.

It also added that issues caused by the shortage of HGV drivers had lessened, though there are concerns the pre-Christmas period may cause further pressure, and that imports, particularly from the Far East, continue to be affected by long lead times, delays at ports and high container costs.