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

North Island College announces 2020 graduation award winners

North Island College has announced the award recipients for the 2020 Graduation… Continue reading

Couple opts for plan B for wedding in Courtenay

Pandemic restrictions prompt April Powell and Hayden Eely to change plans for the big day

‘Someone knows something’: a look into Vancouver Island missing persons with interactive map

There are more than three dozen people listed as missing throughout Vancouver Island

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

Union Bay water plant now finished

Work allows health authority to lift boil water advisory

Islanders want BC Ferries to follow order that lets residents board before tourists

For ferry-dependent communities, ferries are often the sole practical lifeline to work, school or medical appointments.

Beverly Hills 90210 star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

Sports fishers protest Fraser River Chinook closures

Public Fishery Alliance wants hatchery fish open for harvest

B.C. Ferries increasing passenger capacity after COVID-19 restrictions

Transport Canada 50-per-cent limit being phased out, no current plans to provide masks

Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Most Read