Forewarned is forearmed

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In a bold move, BEDMAX has proactively issued a statement alerting the UK equestrian industry to significant price increases expected within the bedding industry. Discussing the motives behind the announcement and plans going forward, Equestrian Business editor Vanessa Britton talks to BEDMAX Managing Director Tim Smalley.

With an abundance of knowledge about respiratory illness, preventative healthcare and the important role bedding plays on both, it is no wonder the equestrian sector places such high demand on top quality bedding options. But what happens when the supply of a finite resource begins to tighten? Rather than overlooking the repercussions this may bring, BEDMAX has taken action and affirmed: “going forward, the prices of all types of horse bedding will rise significantly”.

Proactive about price

Having warned the equestrian industry about the potential consequences of an industry-wide shortfall of raw materials for bedding, Tim explains his motives: “Telling people that their prices might go up 10% in some cases might be hard to swallow, but I hope people will remain on shavings long term. I think these price increases signify a ‘new normal’ for timber. Globally consumers want more paper packaging and yet, world timber prices have done extraordinary things – the price of lumber having doubled in a year. In addition, when it comes to biomass – people have realised you can burn wood and get a good price for it – chipping it for fuel, rather than for other uses. In the UK, there’s only 11 million tonnes of timber harvested, meaning UK based companies import 80% of their timber. Many power stations have changed from coal to timber, which happened in a short space of time, one year.”

All of these factors have left companies with one conclusion: we need more timber.

With this increased demand felt across a number of industries, it would be amiss of the equestrian trade to try and ignore the issue. Designed to serve as an encouragement for horse owners to plan ahead and take into account the “increasing difficulty of securing good quality bedding”, retailers and equestrian professionals must take heed of the BEDMAX statement.

Troubling times

This limited supply of raw material will cause a rise in the price of timber – something BEDMAX has already experienced. The statement indicates the primary cause of the steadily climbing prices as the “European grant-assisted biomass energy market, …putting greater strain on supplies of timber, and forcing prices constantly upwards”. Tim adds, “All the timber we use is chipwood, however those companies who manufacture chipboard have increased their prices within the year by 40%!”

While the company takes pride in the responsible sourcing of the timber used in its products (sourcing only from sustainable UK forestry), Tim uncovers the greater issue at hand. “There is a set acreage of timber in the UK,” he explains. “There is a government act that says if you cut it, you need to replant it, and in Scotland more acreages have been made available for planting, but this is only happening very slowly in England.

Unfortunately, it isn’t just wood-based bedding that is expected to be influenced. The statement also explains the pressures on straw bedding manufacturers: “the weather both last year and this year, combined with demand, continues to put pressure on top quality straw supplies”.

Positive outlook

Valued for consistency and quality, BEDMAX is forging ahead to ensure its products remain popular. As the statement outlines, BEDMAX is one of a number of leading manufacturers “investing in new technology and better processes to further improve quality”. Questioned about the products being encased in plastic packaging, Tim explains, “There’s not an obvious solution. We’ve reduced packaging thickness over the years; all of our packaging is recyclable and we have a zero-waste policy in our factory with all of our waste wood going back in to the process in one way or another.”

Standing firm on the issues at hand, the statement continues: “Even if we could find a cheaper alternative raw material, we simply cannot, and will not, compromise on those standards”. While customers may be tempted to search for cheaper alternatives, Tim recognises this true test of brand loyalty and is confident moving forwards, continuing to operate to such high standards: “The straw industry has been turned upside down – power stations are sucking up huge volumes of straw – so straw is becoming much more expensive. As for timber, there is a finite supply – we even chartered a boat from the north of Scotland to source further supply. We wholesale, we retail, we go direct to large yards and we export a small percentage.”

While availability of raw materials and cost is dictated by powers outside of our industry’s control, being proactive and building good relationships with suppliers and manufacturers will help keep you up-to-date and ready to act when orders start coming in.

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