Logging in B.C.’s Cariboo region: high log prices and low lumber prices have led to mill curtailments. (Black Press files)

B.C. lumber mills struggle with shortage of logs, price slump

Signs of recovery after U.S. market swings, industry executive says

A wave of B.C. sawmill shutdowns and layoffs is a combination of reduced log supply, high log prices and a steep drop in lumber prices, forest industry executives say.

Lumber prices hit a record of $650 per 1,000 board feet early this year as U.S. housing demand ramped up and B.C. producers piled up lumber due to a shortage of rail cars, partly caused by increased oil-by-rail shipments.

That lumber inventory glut got moving as other producers switched from Asia to the U.S. for the high prices, and then the price fell below $300, said Susan Yurkovich, CEO of the B.C. umbrella group Council of Forest Industries.

“We’re looking for some price improvement,” Yurkovich told Black Press in an interview this week. “We’ve seen it improve a little bit over the last number of weeks, but that doesn’t change the fundamental issue around availability of fibre, in the Interior in particular, and the high fibre costs across the province.”

The log shortage is the tail end of a 15-year decline due to the mountain pine beetle epidemic in the B.C. Interior. Forests Minister Doug Donaldson said in an interview the job losses are partly a result of abnormally high salvage logging, and now the reduced allowable cut on Crown forest land is showing its effects.

Forest fires interrupted logging, but 2.4 million cubic metres of fire salvage timber were approved this summer for sawmills, Donaldson said.

“We’re working with the community transition action team to identify skills training that could occur,” Donaldson said. “We want to try to keep people in their communities if they desire, and find jobs that are there.”

The province has increased land recovery spending by $22 million over three years, and that means “boots on the ground for reforestation,” he added.

Quesnel has been particularly affected, after Tolko Industries announced a shutdown of its sawmill there in October, affecting 100 direct jobs and associated logging. Tolko had previously shut down its Merritt sawmill, as B.C. companies adjusted to reduced allowable timber cut.

Then West Fraser Timber announced last week it is ending its third shift at its Quesnel and Fraser Lake sawmills, with more than 100 layoffs, a move described as permanent by B.C.’s largest lumber producer.

Conifex began a shutdown of its Fort St. James mill on Nov. 12, saying it will last at least four weeks.

Interfor announced in October it is reducing production by about 20 per cent for the fourth quarter at its mills in the B.C. Interior, with reduced operating days and extended weekend and holiday breaks. Interfor has mills at Grand Forks, Castlegar and Chase.

Canfor Corp. announced Nov. 1 it is curtailing its B.C. mill operations by about 10 per cent during the fourth quarter of this year. Canfor president Don Kayne said the decision is a result of “log supply challenges following another difficult wildfire season, uncompetitive log costs and declining lumber prices.”

Teal Jones Group, with mills in Surrey, the Fraser Valley and Salmon Arm, has had a series of week-long shutdowns this year, also mainly due to a shortage of logs.

Yurkovich and Donaldson are joining B.C.’s annual forest industry trade mission to Asia in December, with stops in China, Japan and Korea. Donaldson said the focus continues to be on not just increasing Asia lumber trade, but selling more sophisticated wood products than lumber.

“That’s where the long-term future lies, in adding more value,” Donaldson said.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Illegal cannabis club in Port Alberni ticketed again

RCMP seize cannabis, issue fine for second time in five months

Motorists attempted CPR on victim in fatal Highway 4 crash west of Whiskey Creek

Witnesses say three vehicles involved in collision; man in 70s confirmed dead

Chef returns to North Island College to inspire young cooks

Tina Tang shares her culinary journey since graduating

Real-life tsunami threat in Port Alberni prompts evacuation updates

UBC study says some people didn’t recognize the emergency signal

BCHL: Bulldogs announce the departure of head coach Matt Hughes

Hughes led the Alberni Valley Bulldogs for two seasons

Port Alberni Fire Department engages Indigenous youth in fire awareness

Workshop took place as part of Gathering Our Voices event in Port Alberni

‘Families torn apart:’ Truck driver in fatal Broncos crash gets 8-year sentence

Judge Inez Cardinal told court in Melfort, Sask., that Sidhu’s remorse and guilty plea were mitigating factors

Boy who went missing from park remains largest probe in Victoria police history

The four-year old Victoria boy went missing without a trace on March 24, 1991

WestJet sticking with Boeing 737 Max once planes certified to fly

WestJet had expected to add two more of the planes this year to increase its fleet to 13

B.C. driver caught going 207 km/h on motorcycle along Okanagan Highway

A motorcyclist was caught by Kelowna RCMP going 207 km/h on Highway 97C

Protective human chain forms around B.C. mosque for Friday prayer

Vancouver Islanders stand arm-in-arm to show support in aftermath of New Zealand shootings

Motorcyclist dies after three-vehicle crash on old Island Highway

Accident happened at 12:15 p.m. Friday near Country Club Centre in Nanaimo

B.C. fire department offers tips to keep your home safe during wildfire season

With wildfire season getting closer, the Penticton Fire Dept. offer tips to keep your home safe

Fierce house cat spotted as ‘aggressor’ in face off with coyote in B.C. backyard

North Vancouver resident Norm Lee captures orange cat versus coyote in backyard showdown

Most Read