Seasonal Endings

As the year comes to a close, developments in B.C. woods may have some observers scratching their heads with bewildering questions. In a comprehensive report over the weekend in The Vancouver Sun here, the following statement stands out: “Profitable companies are closing mills in the midst of an industry recovery.”

On the one hand in the report, we’re told there’s “reason for optimism in B.C.’s forest sector”. Says James Gorman, CEO at COFI: “Everyone is glad to have 2009 behind us. We’re seeing production numbers improve, pricing improve, demand improve and we’re moving in the right direction.” On the other hand, we’re reminded that 433 jobs will be eliminated due to the permanent mill closures in Quesnel and Houston. The pine beetle has “gutted” their timber supplies. “There is simply not enough fibre remaining in the Quesnel area” explained Canfor CEO Don Kayne when the closures were announced back in October. Added Forest Minister Steve Thomson, from China: “There will probably be some further (mill closures).”

In conjunction with the two mill closures, we’re also told that a “timber swap” between Canfor and West Fraser is still awaiting approval by regulators. The mayor of Houston outlines his concerns as to how such a deal would impact the community. Thomson meanwhile, points to “policy tools that provide for full utilization (of timber).. building the bio-energy sector and making sure we get the best value.” The report also touches on the acknowledged shortfalls in replanting.

The story concludes by noting that the global industry has long been anticipating B.C.’s shrinking fibre supply. Hakan Ekstrom, a consultant at Wood Resources International, quite matter of factly confirms that “lumber prices over the next year or two will go up, and it’s good to start getting into the (U.S.) market and get market share (as supply conditions) line up.”

Growing an overall healthy forest resource pie that benefits all holds opportunities and challenges. Competing forces shaping supply and demand will continue to lend complexities to realities of our lumber business going forward.

~Sawdust~

MM CoverSome lumbermen become authors in their retirement!
While my dad likes to say that his book “was written for the family, relatives, and a few friends,” the hard copy quickly sold out – an indication of wider interest.
The Kindle Edition of Mostly Mennonite, Ernie Harder’s memoir of his parents, is now available at Amazon here.

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