With timber supply declining from now to 2030, B.C.’s forest industry is in a major transition. (Black Press Media)

B.C. forest industry looks to a high-technology future

Restructuring similar to Europe 15 years ago, executive says

As the B.C. and federal governments prepare relief for laid-off forest industry workers, the industry is looking past shrinking log supplies and idle sawmills to following Europe’s path to a value-added future.

B.C. Forests Minister Doug Donaldson and Labour Minister Harry Bains are announcing assistance for laid-off forest workers Tuesday in Prince George. Mill closures, curtailments and logging shutdowns have affected 6,000 workers across B.C., after two record fire seasons, extensive beetle damage and the return of U.S. import duties.

The B.C. Council of Forest Industries has issued a report called “Smart Future” that notes the 50-per-cent drop in annual harvest ahead for the B.C. Interior, protected areas that cover half of the land base on the coast, and rising competition in Chile, Russia and Europe.

Many places produce low-cost lumber, pulp and paper, the report says. It calls for lessons to be learned from Europe, and building on the success of engineered wood that has moved well past the demonstration stage in Europe as it catches on in North America.

Don Kayne is the new chair of COFI and CEO of Canfor Corp., which has extensive operations in the U.S. and recently invested in Sweden’s largest private sawmill group. Kayne said B.C. is in a similar position today to European producers 15 years ago, and Premier John Horgan’s commitment to feature wood in public construction is an important step.

“You’re seeing some brands get involved in our industry that never would have considered it before,” Kayne said in an interview with Black Press. “Microsoft, Google, Sidewalk Labs, Facebook, companies that in the past would probably not have looked at lumber as a product for their training centres.”

B.C. has a long history of exports to Japan, and the future looks bright in one of the more advanced markets for wood construction. A big focus there is senior housing, and hybrid steel-concrete-wood buildings. COFI also faces trade barriers, in the form of Japanese government subsidies to domestic producers.

RELATED: B.C. wood high-rise the talk of Asia

RELATED: B.C. first province to allow 12-storey timber

“It’s really moved past two-by-four housing, especially with the demographic challenges they’re facing, to much more diverse applications,” Kayne said.

Abundant beetle-killed lumber got B.C. into the China market, used for concrete forms and seismic infill walls. Now China is a growing market for modern wood construction, with many suppliers competing.

“There are lots of opportunities, but we’ve got lots of people competing for the same customers that we want to pursue in both Japan and China,” said COFI president Susan Yurkovich. “We have to be a jurisdiction that can compete, and that means making sure that we have access to fibre at a reasonable cost.”

Their report notes that more than half of B.C.’s forest land base is now subject to some kind of restriction, and calls for the establishment of a permanent “working forest” designation to promote long-term investment.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

T.W. Paterson column: This cougar story will never die

“As I walked along the last row in the Gallery, a skull mounted by one of the displays caught my eye!”

Shawnigan Hills parkrun report for Nov. 30

Seven personal bests set in chilly conditions

VIDEO: Celebrate magic of the holidays as Winter Harp returns to Cowichan Sunday

Wonderful Winter Harp is back at the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre on… Continue reading

VIDEO: ‘Holiday Magic’ when Celtic Rhythms and Summit Dance joined forces in Duncan

Fun and frolic combined with more serious selections to make a satisfying evening for everyone

‘Things haven’t changed enough:’ Ecole Polytechnique anniversary prompts reflection

Fourteen women were fatally shot by a gunman at the Montreal school on Dec. 6, 1989

Bear raids freezer, gorges on Island family’s Christmas baking

Hungry bruin virtually ignored meat and fish, focused, instead, on the sweets

B.C. pharmaceutical company’s stocks double in value after successful lupus drug trial

More than 40 per cent of patients using voclosporin saw improvements in kidney function

Second warning on romaine lettuce from California region as another E. coli case reported

Two cases of E. coli have been reported in relation to the illness in the U.S.

B.C. Transit finds 28 used fareboxes online, saves $300,000

‘Someone joked maybe we can buy used fareboxes on eBay,’ CEO says

Many of Canada’s working poor can’t afford lawyers, don’t qualify for legal aid

One lawyer says many people earn too much to qualify for legal aid, but not enough to really live on

Economy lost 71,200 jobs in November, unemployment rate climbs to 5.9%

Jobless rate is at its highest since August 2018, when it hit 6%

BC Hydro reservoirs see record low rain across Vancouver Island

Hydro electric watersheds are at a third of their normal levels

Most Read