After 480,000 cubic metres of raw logs were exported from Port Alberni to oversees sawmills last year, the city’s elected officials are asking why more of the local product isn’t being cut in town.
Raw log shipments are encompassing a rapidly growing portion of Canada’s forestry industry, growing from under 2.5 million cubic metres – roughly equal to 2.5 million telephone poles – to over 6.5 million in 2013. In Port Alberni the demand for unmanufactured logs has so far filled 25 vessels bound for foreign ports this year, far surpassing the four ships packed with lumber cut locally. In 2014 the Port Alberni Port Authority saw 53 vessels loaded with raw logs, while just 13 ships carried lumber oversees.
With the community’s sawmills employing a fraction of the workforce they did a generation ago, the trend towards raw log shipments warrants serious questions into how today’s forestry industry is benefiting Port Alberni, said Mayor Mike Ruttan.
Most of the raw logs are going to China to the support the construction industry. The port authority’s figures from 2014 show 63 per cent of unmanufactured wood was shipped to China, 27 per cent headed to Japan and 10 per cent went to South Korea.