The challenges of Brexit were on the agenda when the Welsh Government’s Environment Minister paid a visit to the Denbighshire headquarters of one of the UK’s biggest timber companies.

Lesley Griffiths, the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment and Rural Affairs, was given a tour of the Clifford Jones Timber plant at Ruthin where they process 100,000 tons of timber every year.

They are the UK’s biggest manufacturer of wooden fence posts, producing over two and a half million a year with one regular consignment making the 8,000 mile trip to the Falklands.

But they fear that a shortage of home grown timber could force them to import more and a plummeting pound and an exit from the European single market could force prices up.

The company’s proud boast is that nothing leaves their Brickfield Lane premises without a bill as they use the wood, bark and all, to make not just fence posts but laminated timber for the construction and leisure industries, gates, dried logs and provide the residue to make over 25,000 tons of pellets and briquettes.

Ms Griffiths, the Labour AM for Wrexham, was shown round by Alan Jones, whose father founded the company in 1948, before meeting with timber industry representatives including Alan’s son and daughter, current chairman Richard and commercial director Sarah Smith.

Richard Jones recently criticised a lack of investment in tree planting in Wales which has slumped in the years since 1990 and which he has claimed could threaten the future of the timber industry which employs 11,000 people in the country.

The Minister said: “It’s been very good and very interesting to see how this family-run timber business operates.

“We’ve discussed Brexit and the challenges and opportunities it brings and it’s been good to see the range of products and the added value they bring to them.

“Clearly they face some challenges which need to be addressed and it’s really important that the industry works in partnership with Natural Resources Wales to tackle those challenges.

“It’s a very sustainable business with virtually zero waste and we want businesses to be sustainable and be aware of current legislation around sustainability.”

Richard Jones said: “It was a very positive meeting and we brought up the matter of restocking and about finding ways of encouraging farmers and landowners to get involved in schemes to plant conifers.

“We wanted to put her in the picture about the issues for the timber industry in Wales because there is a real need for support.

“We have the ideal conditions for growing timber here and the capacity to expand the industry and create more jobs if we had more woodland here in Wales.

“She was very sympathetic and she liked the fact that we are very sustainable which is a positive for us and of course she is actually my local Assembly Member but there are many calls on her time and so we were very grateful to get the chance to show her what we do here in Ruthin.”

During her tour of the plant she was shown how raw timber from forests across Wales is transformed into fence posts and also show the laminating plant where sections of wood are glued together and bonded to create a strong, lightweight and durable product.

Clifford Jones, which also has a second timber yard at Gretna in Scotland, employs over 70 staff at the two plants and has pioneered processes to create extra-long lasting fence posts with a lifespan of up to 35 years.

They also recently hosted a ‘Waste Not, Want Not’ themed event set up by the Inside Welsh Industry organisation as part of a Welsh Government-sponsored programme of visits to top companies in Wales and attended by over 30 directors and senior managers from firms across Wales.

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