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.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Greater Victoria donates 166 tents, 240 sleeping bags and more for those in need

Items placed in 72-hour quarantine before being distributed to help homeless self-isolate

UVic closes Finnerty Gardens and popular dog park Cedar Corner

Regular dog walkers to Cedar Corner sent elsewhere during pandemic

Victoria police seek public’s help finding man missing more than a week

Joel Diment 26 and has short brown hair and hazel eyes

No one injured in Saanich townhouse fire

Blaze may have been connected to fireplace use

‘Langford Cares’ campaign to cover hotel expenses for frontline health care workers

Initiative gives back to health care staff living on the West Shore

COVID-19: B.C. reports 4 deaths, 25 new cases but only in Vancouver Coastal, Fraser Health

A total of 1,291 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

COVID-19: Don’t get away for Easter weekend, Dr. Bonnie Henry warns

John Horgan, Adrian Dix call 130 faith leaders as holidays approach

COVID-19: Trudeau says 30K ventilators on the way; 3.6M Canadians claim benefits

Canada has seen more than 17,000 cases and at least 345 deaths due to COVID-19

Comox spring training cancelled for Snowbirds next month

The team announced that due to ongoing travel restrictions they will not be training in the Valley

Some Cowichan schools to reopen for children of essential-services workers

Cowichan Valley will open 8 elementary schools this week

RCMP call on kids to name latest foal recruits

The baby horses names are to start with the letter ‘S’

Physiotherapists turn to technology to reach patients during COVID-19

Just because services, jobs, and socializing have been put on hold, it… Continue reading

As Canadians return home amid pandemic, border crossings dip to just 5% of usual traffic

Non-commercial land crossing dipped by 95%, air travel dropped by 96 per cent, according to the CBSA

Logan Boulet Effect: Green Shirt Day calls on Canadians to become organ donors

While social distancing, the day also honours the 16 lives lost in the 2018 Humboldt Broncos Crash

Most Read