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Sawmill Survey


The Sawmill Survey is an annual survey conducted by the Forestry Commission (in association with the Forest Service) of sawmills in the UK that are believed to use UK-grown logs. The survey comprises a short questionnaire (for smaller mills) and a detailed questionnaire (for larger mills).

The survey, which previously covered sawmills in Great Britain only, was extended in 2004 to include sawmills in Northern Ireland. Figures for Northern Ireland in earlier years have therefore been estimated, based on responses to the 2004 survey.

The detailed survey has changed over the years, both in terms of coverage and periodicity. For 1996 and earlier, detailed questionnaires were issued triennially to mills producing at least 1,000 m3 of sawnwood. From 1998 to 2004, the questionnaires were issued every two years to mills producing at least 5,000 m3 of sawnwood. From 2005, the detailed questionnaires have been issued annually, to mills producing at least 10,000 m3 of sawnwood. From 2016, the threshold for inclusion in the detailed sawmill survey has been raised to annual production of at least 25,000 m3 of sawnwood.

Statistics reported for each year are limited to mills that are known to use UK roundwood, but also include any imported logs used by these mills.

Tables for softwood are broken down by country (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland) and by size of mill. Given the low number of sawmills using UK hardwood, tables for hardwood are presented at a total UK level only.

The number of active mills (those that produced sawnwood in the reporting year) is presented in tables 2.8 to 2.10.

Longer time series, providing data on numbers of mills and on softwood consumption and production are available from the Data Downloads web page. The time series data feature breakdowns by size of mill, by country and by region (in England).


Data collected

Two questionnaires are used for the Sawmill Survey:

  • a detailed questionnaire goes to around 30 mills that have annual production of at least 25,000 m3 of sawnwood, and
  • a short questionnaire is sent to all other mills that are believed to use UK sawlogs (around 140 mills in 2016).

As the threshold for inclusion in the detailed survey was changed for the collection of 2016 data, the results presented here for earlier years have been adjusted to this new threshold to provide a consistent time series.

Both the detailed and the short questionnaires collect information on:

  • the consumption of UK and imported logs,
  • the production of sawnwood,
  • chain of custody certificates and certified timber,
  • (from the 2006 survey) sales to bioenergy,
  • (from the 2008 survey) sales as firewood and internal use for heat/energy,
  • (from the 2010 survey) other products and
  • (from the 2008 survey) total employment.

In addition, the detailed questionnaire also collects information on:

  • the source of UK logs (England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland),
  • sawnwood product markets,
  • other products by type and destination and
  • sawmill employment by type.

More information on the Sawmill Survey, including copies of the questionnaires sent to businesses in recent years, can be found at


Response rates

In 2016, detailed questionnaires were issued to 31 mills, of which 28 responded, giving a response rate of 90%. For the short questionnaire, 46 responses were received from the 142 forms issued, corresponding to a 32% response rate. This gives an overall response rate of 43%.

Overall, the 74 sawmills responding to the sawmill survey in 2016 are estimated to account for around 83% of total UK sawnwood production.

Year Forms issued Responses received Response rate1 Weighted response rate2
2007 243 149 61% ..
2008 227 133 59% 90%
2009 219 122 56% 87%
2010 211 93 44% 85%
2011 200 84 42% 82%
2012 196 86 44% 84%
2013 191 83 43% 80%
2014 178 82 46% 84%
2015 179 84 47% 79%
2016 173 74 43% 83%


1. Response rates are calculated as the number of responses received divided by the number of forms issued.

2. Weighted response rates have been calculated from the 2008 survey onwards. They are an estimate of the proportion of total UK sawnwood production that is accounted for by respondents.

.. Denotes data not available.


Each year, figures for non respondents are estimated by rolling forward data from previous years for these mills. For larger mills, these estimates may be modified to take account of advice from the Expert Group on Timber & Trade Statistics.

Time series data for the detailed sawmill survey

From one year to another, some mills may have moved above or below the threshold for inclusion in the detailed sawmill survey. This may affect the trends over time in tables 2.16a to 2.19a.

The total volume of roundwood consumed and sawnwood and other products produced by sawmills covered by the detailed sawmill survey varies over time, so a change in the percentages shown in tables 2.16a to 2.18a does not necessarily reflect a change in volumes.

As a result of the change to the threshold for inclusion in the detailed survey in 2016, results for 2012 to 2015 presented in tables 2.16a to 2.18a have been revised to cover only those mills producing at least 25 thousand m3 of sawnwood, for consistency with the 2016 data.


Detailed information on the survey quality is available in the “Quality Report: Sawmill Survey” at qrsawsur.pdf.

Further quality information on FC Official Statistics is available at:


Results from the Sawmill Survey may be revised between the provisional figures published in the First Release “UK Wood Production and Trade: provisional figures” and the final data published in “Forestry Facts & Figures” and “Forestry Statistics” to take account of late returns and the results of additional data quality checking procedures.

All the main results (number of mills, consumption, production) are subject to revision annually, as information becomes available about mills opening or closing, or new information becomes available for previous non-respondents. The most common revisions are relatively small downward changes, but this can vary from year to year as special exercises are run to validate the survey population. Information about new mills opening can on occasion cause much larger upward revisions to softwood volumes. Results from the survey of larger mills, which provides more detailed information, may be revised to take account of new information for previous non-respondents.

Figures for 2016 are final; provisional figures were previously released in “UK Wood Production and Trade: 2016 provisional figures”. Since the publication of the provisional 2016 figures:

  • softwood consumption in 2016 has been revised up, from 6.5 million green tonnes to 6.7 million green tonnes;
  • hardwood consumption in 2016 has been revised up, from 90 thousand green tonnes to 92 thousand green tonnes;
  • corresponding upwards revisions to sawnwood production have resulted in increases of 67 thousand m3 for softwood and 1 thousand m3 for hardwood.

Information on revisions made since “Forestry Statistics 2016” are provided in “UK Wood Production and Trade: 2016 provisional figures”.


Further information

Figures for UK production of sawn softwood have previously been used alongside data from other sources to assess consumption of sawn softwood in the main end-user markets in the UK. Reports are available at


Release schedule

Provisional figures for 2017 will be released on 17 May 2018 in “UK Wood Production and Trade: 2017 provisional figures”.

Final figures for 2017 will be released on 27 September 2018 in “Forestry Statistics 2018” and “Forestry Facts & Figures 2018”.

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