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B.C. forestry sector gathering strength

China increasing imports while U.S. market slowly recovers



Anyone who regularly drives the Sea to Sky highway will have noticed the endless stream of heavily-laden logging trucks trundling south towards the ports of Vancouver. After years of mill closures and layoffs, the logging industry is enjoying a renaissance, employing 55,500 forest sector workers in 2010 after bottoming out with 52,000 in 2009.

While China is creeping towards capturing the largest piece of the forest market pie, the U.S. market still holds the largest share - at 38.7 per cent - of B.C. forest product exports. However, those numbers are trending downward, having dropped 5.7 per cent over the previous month, 18.9 per cent over the previous year, and 10.7 per cent the year to date due to a weak lumber demand.

China, on the other hand, is down 5.4 per cent over the previous month but up 104.2 per cent over the past year and 99.4 per cent over the year to date. That country's demand matches its rapidly growing economy and B.C.'s convenient location to serve the Asian market.

According to statistics compiled by provincial economic analyst Jie Shu of the Competitiveness Branch, Ministry of Forests, Mines and Lands, in March 2011 B.C. softwood lumber production totalled 2.47 million cubic metres, up 10.2 per cent from the previous month and up 9.6 per cent from March of last year. The majority of that wood - 89.2 per cent - was from the Interior. As of March 2011, the volume of coastal harvest - including private, Crown and federal - was down 2.8 per cent over last year. Crown land harvest volume totaled 0.90 million cubic metres, down 12.3 per cent over last year. Similarly, stumpage revenue collected in March was $3.66 million - a 33 per cent drop over the previous year.

In April 2011, the value of B.C.'s softwood lumber exports totalled $316 million, up two per cent from the previous April. The volume of B.C. softwood lumber exports dropped 0.2 per cent over the previous year, totaling 1.79 million cubic metres.

The top three destinations for softwood lumber exports in April 2011 were the U.S. with a value of 43.9 per cent and volume of 52.2 per cent, followed by China with a value of 27.6 per cent and volume of 27.8 per cent and Japan with a value of 15.5 per cent and volume of 10.8 per cent.

While lumber (softwood) is still the most coveted of B.C.'s forest exports, pulp has increased 13.5 per cent since 2005. Other wood products and other pulp and paper products are both down over previous years.