UK brick imports are on the rise, as construction firms struggle to find brick supplies. With domestic brick makers unable to satisfy the nation’s ever-increasing demands, the UK is relying on imported bricks to keep the country building.
The UK’s reliance on imported bricks is historical. Domestic brick production halved as a result of the 2008 recession, with many plants mothballed, or closed permanently. When the housing market picked up in 2014-15, bricks were already in short supply. By 2019, the UK was the largest importer of bricks in the world, importing $33.4 million in bricks from the Netherlands, Spain, France, Denmark, Portugal and Turkey.
In June 2021, Government figures reported that brick inventories had plummeted to a 20-year low. This year, the UK will import bricks to an estimated value of £135.8 million. UK production capacity cannot meet the demand for bricks and roof tiles, and is unlikely to for at least another year, Construction News reports.
“In terms of skills shortages, in some hotspots of activity where house building, refurbishment and infrastructure is buoyant, there have been shortages of skilled (and even unskilled) construction labour since Spring 2021. This has been exacerbated by the fall in EU labour. Most construction trades are not on the government’s Shortage Occupation List.”
Noble Francis, of the Construction Products Association
The National Federation of Builders (NFB) and House Builders Association (HBA) say material shortages are obstructing the government from realising its house building and construction ambitions. Both bodies are calling on the government to allow greater flexibility on which construction materials can be used.
The UK is bringing on line three new brickmaking plants and production is likely to commence in 2023/2024. By then, the combined annual output is anticipated to be at an estimated 150 million bricks.
In the meantime, the industry must continue to rely on imported bricks from the EU. As well as further afield including India, Pakistan and the Asia-Pacific region.
That is if we want to continue building.