Over the past 25 years, the CJ Sheeran group has become Ireland’s largest manufacturer of timber packaging and pallets. Currently, the company’s input costs are rising but higher prices have not put off their customers.
“There has been an explosion in demand for timber partly driven by more people at home due to the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions,” explains Business Development Director Fergal Moran.
This, along with supply constraints stemming from a backlog of tree-felling licences which has gone on for 18 months, has resulted in the price of saw timber increasing by over 20%. What is bad news for the company’s end users, is music to the ears of farmers with timber planted, says Moran.
Sustainability is at the heart of the CJ Sheeran business model. Over 40,000 pallets a week are recycled, with measures in place to minimise the miles covered by those pallets between use and re-use. Pallets that cannot be repaired or reconditioned are repurposed into either biomass or the company’s successful equine bedding product, ‘Comfybed’.
“A lot of what would have been waste 15 years ago is now repurposed, and these business lines have all been very resilient, even in the face of Covid-19,” says Moran, adding that sustainability is as important as price, quality and security of supply to the group’s multinational customers.
To secure its supply, CJ Sheeran has begun to import timber from West Scotland and the Baltic countries.
“The bigger challenges at the moment are definitely on the supply side. Lead times used to be about two weeks, they’re out to around four or five now, but the order always gets filled,” says Moran.
Despite Brexit, there will be good opportunities in the UK market for Irish timber producers over the next 10 to 20 years, Moran believes.
“There was a time when you might have struggled to attract talented young people to this business, but now they look at us and see a bigger organisation, more scope for progression, and a business that is resilient and sustainable into the future.”