Weathering Climate Change

How long before we can expect to see palm trees lining Vancouver boulevards?

It’s expected that shifts in climate will see trees normally associated with warmer climes finding comfort levels farther north. The Vancouver Sun reports here that according to a new study called Climate Projections for Metro Vancouver, “changes in temperature and precipitation will affect everything from sewage pipes to ski hills.” Local trees will be poorly adapted to the rising temperatures and elevated disease pressures.

According to Genome British Columbia, foresters have three options for dealing with climate change: reforest with the same species but with trees that are better adapted to warmer climates; move species further north or to higher elevations; or select and breed trees that can better withstand climatic stresses or disease. This news release from Genone British Columbia is an interesting read. We’re told the CoAdapTree project, which involves revolutionary testing by a genomics research team at UBC led by Dr. Sally Aitken, Forest & Conservation Sciences, will ultimately lead to better reforestation strategies for western Canada’s changing climates.

Climate change isn’t just bad for trees. It’s also bad for the economic and environmental benefits they provide to Canada – benefits like wood, jobs, habitat protection, and carbon sequestration. CoAdapTree: Healthy trees for future climates, will provide recommendations for climate-based seed transfer policy to guide foresters in planting trees that will be healthy in new climates in western Canada. Climate-based seed transfer can result in up to 30% greater timber yields, with a proportional impact on the economy and employment, and will also sustain ecological and environmental benefits of forests.

Sawmill Shutdowns etc.

“More sawmills will be shut down in BC,”  says Hakan Ekstrom of the Seattle forestry consulting firm Wood Resources International, in the Victoria Times Colonist. “The question is, will it be three, four, five, or six sawmills?”

The report, from the January 19 Western Forest Industry Conference in Vancouver, Washington, cites details on the fallout from the pine beetle infestation, a major factor behind the shrinking sustainable harvest rate/annual allowable cut (AAC) in this province. The most significant impact will be felt in the BC Interior, where it’s estimated 80-90 per cent of merchantable pine was killed. Salvage logging in the region is winding down as the availability of economic, beetle-killed timber peters out. While AAC reductions were anticipated, “it was always somewhere in the future,” said Ekstrom. “Now it is actually going to happen.” BC’s chief forester is expected to announce cutbacks in Quesnel in March, Prince George in June, and Lakes, west of Prince George, in late 2017.

Meanwhile, economic forecasts suggest US housing starts will continue to climb in 2017. In China, softwood lumber imports reached an all-time high in 2016, “fueled by growing demand for use of lumber in the furniture, door, window and finishing segments” (International Wood Markets 1/23/17). At the same time, questions related to how optimism for overall demand will play out in the face of the Canada-United States softwood lumber dispute, as curtailments and shutdowns loom, remain unanswered.

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Anyone know where this tree is located? We can probably rule out Quesnel. Its certainly got a mind of its own, with a natural defence against sawmills bent on producing dimension lumber free of crook.  Update: Solved! The tree is located in Kona, Hawaii, at the Kona Country Club. Thanks to Ian White of Dakeryn Industries, who even shared his own picture of this tree!

best-damn-photos-twisty-palm-tree

Q&A – 2016 Edition

Of the Top Ten Questions for 2016 posed at Harderblog one year ago, the first five have been satisfactorily answered for us:

1. Will the Trump presidential campaign have staying power beyond March?
See November election results.

2. Will the US make history by electing a woman as president for the first time?
No.

3. Will BC softwood log exports to Mainland China eclipse BC softwood lumber exports?
For the answer to this question, we turned to Russ Taylor, President, WOOD MARKETS. “Interesting question, but lumber export volumes to China have always been much higher than logs. The gap is narrowing, but lumber export volumes are still much higher.” Russ confirms BC softwood exports to China through October as follows: Logs = 3.0 million m3 vs 2.43 million m3 in 2015 (+23%); Lumber = 5.0 million m3 vs 5.49 million m3 in 2015 (-9%). Of course, log exports even south of the border continue to be a contentious issue.

exports

4. Will a new Softwood Lumber Agreement be reached between Canada and the United States before the standstill period ends October 13?
No. By early October, we were told talks had entered the days of magical thinking. And while the US Lumber Coalition’s submission of their petition to the US Department of Commerce was predictable, the November 25 timing caught markets by surprise. At least one forest analyst suggested “it put a whole new spin on Black Friday.”

5. Is this the year virtual reality goes mainstream?
As the cost of development falls, we’re told virtual reality is in fact beginning to move into the mainstream. However, it’s reported that most console headsets are still “device-exclusive”. And flaws in these controllers actually tempered demand in 2016, leading Tech Digest to ask will virtual reality finally become mainstream in 2017?

Forest Bathing

The focus in 2017 is going to be how to achieve a deeper sense of “wellness” in everyday life, reports The Vancouver Sun here. Defined as “making contact with and taking in the atmosphere of the forest,” forest bathing involves immersing “in the calming, leafy greenery of a woodland/forest environment – to relieve tension and stress and to experience a more heightened sense of well-being.”

The term forest bathing comes from the Japanese shinrin-yoku, which means taking in the forest atmosphere. “Knowing the pleasure of being outdoors is nothing new to people here on the West Coast, but the terminology ‘forest bathing’ is something new to our ears. As a result, more people are predicted to go for a walk in the woods if they think of it as ‘bathing’ in nature rather than just taking a rustic ramble.”

Psychology Today explains “what sets forest bathing apart from simply taking a walk in the forest is that we consciously take in the sights, sounds, smells, and the whole experience, rather than allowing our minds to do the things they habitually do, like putting together a mental grocery list.”

This theme of forest bathing certainly fits into progressive thinking for stewardship of the forest. It recognizes value in the holistic approach that plugs into Mike Apsey’s thinking on forest management that appreciated value in the woods beyond “the price of a 2×4”.

runnning-nov-2016-photo-by-ejh

High on Wood

It’s not everyday that lumber traders get to climb 18 flights of stairs to see first hand how mass timber is reshaping methods and process on industrial construction projects. It was our privilege yesterday to visit the UBC Brock Commons site with our NAWLA Vancouver Regional Planning Committee. The private tour, arranged and lead by Oscar Faoro, Contractor – Special Projects, Canadian Wood Council (NRCan – Canadian Tall Wood Building Demonstration Project Initiative) offered closeup look at one of the tallest hybrid mass timber buildings under construction in the world.

The memorable afternoon included an informative presentation by Oscar at the Brock Commons Education and Outreach Centre. He detailed the high performance, cost effective, sustainable solutions in support of the business case for Mass Timber Construction. In architecturally magnificent, wood enhanced surroundings of the Wesbrook Community Center, Ralph Austin, Seagate Structures introduced us to background information. Seagate was awarded the contract for wood installations at Brock Commons. We also viewed the planned site of Virtuoso by Adera, the first six-storey, hybrid Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) building in Western Canada.

Special thanks also to Karla Fraser, Senior Project Manager, Urban One Builders, who lead our group in the informative tour to the top, with kindly consideration for respite at occasional elevations to both absorb information on stages of construction – and catch our breath.

Autumn Winds

Elizabeth Browning’s poem The Autumn refers to this time of year “Where waving woods and waters wild  Do hymn an autumn sound.” For many of us, this year’s first sounds of fall bring an unusual mix of seasonal notes:

Amid Maritime vacation memories not yet fully unpacked come reviews of first day of kindergarten for my four-year-old, a tumble and fall off the bus on day one of Grade One for my six-year-old, and newspaper reports suggesting the provincial government could seek exemptions from export duties for B.C. re-manufacturers that might come in a new Softwood Lumber Agreement with the U.S.
Ensuring access to timber for the value-added sector poses ongoing challenge. It is hoped the proposed exemption would provide incentive for big timber licensees to make more wood available to the value-added segment of the forest industry. Meanwhile, a report today from CIBC Capital Markets cites a source via Inside U.S. Trade who suggested SLA negotiations were closer at the 100-day period than they are now. 

It seems the “chilling autumn winds” that Browning talked about could deliver more than a bloody lip that highlighted my daughter’s Grade One debut. Amid election-fueled talk of softwood negotiations, lumber traders are bracing for the October 12th standstill expiry to deliver more tears than exemptions.

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Lunchtime! with Grandad – Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia (30 Aug 2016)

 

Making Trade Great Again?

Amid revved-up rhetoric of U.S. election season comes more news from the U.S. Lumber Coalition that hints of negotiation strategies for any SLA down the road. A press release from the coalition yesterday suggests a hybrid of quota and export taxes, arguing that any deal with Canada must:

  • maintain Canadian exports at or below an agreed U.S. market share
  • establish border measures that are effective in all market situations.

A July 17th industry update from CIBC Institutional Equity Research projected that “the next SLA will resemble the structure Canada proposed to the United States on June 21, 2016, with Option A (B.C./Alberta) duties ranging up to 25% (vs. the 2006 SLA’s maximum of 15%), and lower U.S. market share constraints for Canadian mills.”

Further to CIBC’s May 16th update projecting preliminary duties as early as Feb/Mar 2017, CIBC explains lumber equities trading today around three-year lows “the market pricing in a long multi-year trade battle with very limited pass-through of the cost of duties to consumers.”

Here in B.C., it’s reported the volume of softwood lumber shipped to the U.S.through May 31st ballooned +36% YTD. Some might be wondering what role any consideration for reducing production might have in B.C. mills’ stance /position going forward toward resolution of softwood trade with the U.S. The CIBC report does state that “a period of duties in 2017 could accelerate permanent beetle-related capacity curtailments slated in B.C. over the next three years.” RBC Capital Markets analyst Paul Quinn has also predicted that any preliminary duties imposed in 2017 would result in a number of mill shutdowns right across Canada.

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2016 COFI Convention – 23 Takeaways

  1. Convention buzzwords: competitiveness, rationalize/rationalization, utilize/utilization
  2. “Rationalize” is a euphemism for fewer mills.
  3. In familiar staccato style, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Honourable Steve Thomson’s talked about viewing the forest sector through various lenses. “We’re focused to make sure we have a competitive framework in British Columbia..”
  4. Speaking of competitiveness, the province is well-positioned owing to success in Asian markets. Fibre supply has historically been an advantage but is now under pressure. Delivered wood costs, tax environment, energy costs, and regulatory processes are disadvantages. – Jock Finlayson, Executive VP & Chief Policy Officer, BC Business Council
  5. Highly regarded, impressive newcomer to COFI leadership is CEO and President, Susan Yurkovich
  6. We are in the midst of a long period of strengthening lumber markets, however growth in 2016 will be disappointing. – Paul Jannke, Principal, Lumber, Forest Economic Advisors
  7. “One thing every investor wants is liquidity.” And no matter how manageable, “investors are not interested in material stocks with debt.” Among forest analysts, Daryl Swetlishoff, Senior Managing Director, Raymond James Ltd., Equity Research is a rock star. While noting the forest sector accounts for barely 1% of the TSX Index, Swetlishoff said “opportunities exist because the market is not very efficient.” Uncertainty surrounding the SLA is keeping forestry stocks on the tarmac.
  8. “Investors always ask about two things: the SLA and demand for lumber in China.” – Ted Seraphim, President & CEO, West Fraser
  9. At the 2014 COFI Convention, Ted Seraphim simply told us it was “all about capacity”. And last year, I was critical of the CEO Panel here. This year, the CEO Panel, which also included Duncan Davies, President & CEO Interfor Corporation, and Ron Gorman, President & CEO, Gorman Bros. was a convention highlight. Seraphim was candid throughout, opening up about safety worries, the challenges in accessing high quality cost-effective fibre, and the strive to achieve our potential.
  10. Person at the convention I would most like to have lunch with: Duncan Davies, CEO Interfor. In a refreshingly relaxed manner, he expertly explained all things SLA during the CEO Panel.
  11. I asked the CEO panel “How does the “Canadian Invasion” re. sawmill acquisitions in the U.S. South impact SLA negotiations?” The panel viewed the learning experience as a real positive. With an eye to negotiations, they all agreed it has brought better understanding. Historically, Canadian producers have not seen how the system functions in the U.S.
  12. The first tariff was placed on Canadian softwood lumber exports to the United States in 1872.
  13. U.S. mills are at a competitive advantage because fibre costs are lower in the U.S. than B.C.
  14. U.S. trade laws are designed to protect U.S. producers. Consumers have nothing to do with it.
  15. The U.S. views trade deals as bad deals; blame present economic pessimism on the U.S. election. If a problem seems very complicated, a significant segment of the population doesn’t want a complicated answer. – Bruce Anderson, Chairman, Abacus Data
  16. Changing context – viewing the world as a market – global, inter-connected market – relationships/polarization. Change is not a choice. “If you don’t like change, you better acquire a taste for it.” –  Bruce Anderson
  17. Wood is good. In 1997, public opinion in Canada of the forest sector was 1/3 negative, 1/3 positive, and 1/3 neutral (costs start to rise at 25% negative opinion). Today, only 20% negative, which is low for the sector. Positive perception explains why politicians are embracing the industry. – Bruce Anderson
  18. “Sustainability has gone mainstream” – Ken Shields, President & CEO, Conifex Timber Inc.
  19. Re: the industry rationalization period, “it’s hard to be seeking collaboration at the same time you’re all fighting for a piece of a smaller pie” – Ken Shields
  20. Interesting to learn from Diane Nicholls, Chief Forester that overall, actual cuts are falling short of the Annual Allowable Cut (AAC). In view of midterm timber supply constraints, it was curious to hear that finding ways to maximize cuts to the full extent allowed was a priority. (see Nbr. 21)
  21. “Most of the economically harvestable beetle-killed timber has been harvested.” – Tim Sheldan, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Resource Operations
  22. Premier Christy Clark was in full electioneering mode at the Community Leaders Luncheon. It was a friendly crowd, and her excitable keynote address drew a standing ovation.
  23. This was my fourth consecutive outstanding COFI Convention, the location having alternated annually between Kelowna and Prince George. A surprise announcement at the Friday luncheon confirmed the convention will be in Vancouver next year. While convenient for me, how this change influences attendees will be interesting to see. On my travels, and after listening to the mayors of Prince George, Williams Lake, and Cranbrook at the Community Leaders Breakfast session, the Interior and northern communities of this province don’t share the same love affair with Vancouver that Vancouver does these days. In the words of Walt Cobb, Mayor of Williams Lake, talking about Vancouver/Victoria on Friday morning, “They just don’t get it!”

2016-04-07 11.27.02 (1)

Billion Board Foot Club

How many new members will be added to the Billion Board Foot Club in 2015?  For the answer to Question Number 15, we turned yesterday to the analyst who coined the term to classify the largest softwood lumber producers on the planet. Russ Taylor, President of International Wood Markets Group Inc. told us yesterday: “It looks like there will be no companies added to the Club in 2015. The three closest companies (one each from Canada, USA and Europe) were all around 900 million FBM in 2014 and I am quite sure that none were able to increase output by 10 per cent. Back in 2005, there were 22 companies in the Club vs. 11 in 2014! Back in 2005, nine were between 1.0 and 1.2 billion, so when the market collapsed, most of these companies had production declines of 30-50%. So, it takes a long time to build back up production. A few have grown through acquisitions, but all of the 11 in 2014 were also in the Club in 2005.”

Nine members of the Billion Board Foot Club are on this continent: West Fraser, Canfor, Weyerhauser, Georgia Pacific, Resolute Forest Products, Interfor, Sierra Pacific Industries, Hampton Affiliates, and Tolko Industries.

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Source: timber-online.net

Back-to-School Market Distractions

We can now add “back-to-school distractions” to the long list of conflicting forces presently shaping lumber markets. According to the Random Lengths Midweek Market Report, “Hot weather, back-to school distractions, and vacations contributed to the lethargic pace” in recent days. Traders likely consider China, multi-family trends in ‘house construction’, abundant global fibre supply, and a weak Canadian dollar to be more impactful factors at the moment.

Even the October 12th expiry of the Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA) is now in sight. In midst of one of the worst wildfire seasons on record, the Framing Lumber Composite Price has actually drifted lower since peaking in early July. Before the SLA expires, it’s possible that a significantly higher export charge could be triggered for just the first eleven days of October. How might that play out?

Meanwhile, we’re told here “for softwood lumber prices to rise meaningfully, Canada’s lumber industry will have to reduce its current overproduction.” It’s interesting to note that ‘overproduction’ has been one among many characterizations said to have been impacting cyclical lumber pricing patterns over the past 20 years. In today’s post-beetle world, the rationale for perceived “overproduction” strategies among the province’s largest producers is complex, if not confusing to many.

Stoney Lake Lodge 7-28-2015

While fly fishing at Stoney Lake Lodge (27 July 2015) photo credit: ejh