Log sales to China have increased along with lumber exports

Log sales to China have increased along with lumber exports

BC VIEWS: Forest policies need to add up

Log exports to China have surged along with lumber sales, which are far more valuable and keep sawmills going

We’ll hear a lot of talk about “raw logs” in the next few weeks, as B.C. political parties position themselves for the May 9 vote.

“Raw logs” is the emotional buzzword designed to bring the issue down to the bumper-sticker level of modern political debate. NDP politicians denounce the BC Liberals for presiding over a “500 per cent” increase in log, sorry, “raw log” exports, as sawmills have closed.

The BC Liberals respond that more jobs would be lost if further restrictions were put on log exports, the NDP doesn’t care about loggers, and so forth.

Fortunately, BC Stats has just produced its annual export trade figures, for all commodities including logs and lumber. They tell more of the story.

There has indeed been a steep increase in log exports to China, from next to nothing in 2007 to more than $400 million by value in 2016. Log exports to the U.S. declined 10 years ago and have ticked along at about $50 million a year since.

Log export value to Japan is consistently three times that of the U.S. in the past decade, which makes sense when you consider that Japan is the most finicky wood importer in the world. They particularly like our coastal red cedar, and pay handsomely for it, in log or lumber form.

Looking at export figures for sawn lumber, you begin to see that log exports are mostly a political sideshow. The U.S., China and Japan are B.C.’s leading customers here as well, with lumber value running as much as 10 times log value in a given year.

Lumber exports to China climbed from minimal to nearly $1.5 billion a year by 2014, helping to keep B.C. sawmills running after the collapse of the U.S. housing market. As the U.S. has recovered, and the expiry of its border restrictions has created a fragile window of free trade in lumber, B.C. exports south have soared, reaching more than $4.5 billion in 2016.

Japan remains a steady and vital premium lumber customer, with export values of around $800 million annually. Note that lumber sales to Japan alone are worth as much as B.C.’s total log exports to the world.

China’s emergence as a major wood customer follows expensive marketing efforts over many years by the forest industry, the federal government and B.C. Now that our exports south are under threat again, Asia becomes more important than ever.

The BC Liberals say much of the increase in log exports is from remote locations with no mill option available. That’s places like the Great Bear Rainforest, where logging continues under new rules.

Economists will tell you that as with many industries, more jobs have been lost from new technology, in the bush and in the mill, than from log exports.

The BC Green Party has announced it would extend carbon tax to slash pile burning, to force logging companies to sell wood waste for pellets or other uses.

The forests ministry already does this by policy, applied only to locations where it can be economically done. It’s required when there is “clear demand” such as a pellet plant, where businesses would generally make the deal without government instruction.

David Elstone, executive director of the Truck Loggers’ Association, notes that slash is piled and burned to prepare sites for mandatory replanting. He argues the forest industry should get a break from carbon tax on fuel, since wood structures and products sequester carbon for longer than natural forests, where wood rots and releases carbon dioxide back the atmosphere.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

Just Posted

The end of an Echo
The end of an Echo

Invermere Valley Echo shuts down operations in Columbia Valley

Creating a new narrative for Canal Flats

Economic development consultant hired, lists vision for next 90 days

Princeton wildfire phots courtesy of Debbie Lyon.
UPDATE: Crews battle as wildfires rage in B.C. Interior

Crews brace for another day on B.C. firelines as no let up is likely

VIDEO: B.C. wildfires by the numbers
VIDEO: B.C. wildfires by the numbers

Wildfires continue to engulf regions of B.C.’s forests and communities.

Aerial view south of Williams Lake Friday afternoon shows dry lightning storm passing over, leaving fire starts behind. Lightning sparked more than 100 new fires Friday. (Black Press)
VIDEO: More than 180 wildfires burning across B.C.

Firefighters from other provinces called in to assist

DTSS Grad March 2017
DTSS Grad March 2017

DTSS Grad March 2017

59 cats seized in Chase
59 cats seized in Chase

59 neglected and injured cats were seized from a property in Chase

(Flickr/Andreas Eldh)
Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell dead at age 52

The singer/songwriter passed away early Thursday morning in Detroit

Paying tribute to a primeval passage
Paying tribute to a primeval passage

Uninterrupted celebrates the Adams River sockeye run in an extraordinary way.

UPDATE: Pemberton Music Festival cancelled, no automatic refunds
UPDATE: Pemberton Music Festival cancelled, no automatic refunds

In the past, the music festival located in Pemberton drew large crowds last year of 180,000 fans

Photo by: WeissPaarz.com
Medical wait times cost B.C. patients $2,300 each

New Fraser Institute report places B.C. at second worst in costs associated with long wait times

UPDATE: 22 killed at Ariana Grande concert
UPDATE: 22 killed at Ariana Grande concert

Witnesses reported hearing two loud bangs coming from near the arena’s bars at about 10:35 p.m.

A university study finds that about nine per cent of Canada’s Grade 11 and 12 students – roughly 66,000 teens – have driven within an hour of drinking and 9.4 per cent drove after using marijuana.                                 Photo: Now-
Leader file
One in three Canadian high school students have rode with drinking drivers, study reveals

Nearly one in five rode with a driver who’d been smoking pot

Top court to hear federal government’s appeal on residential school records
Top court to hear federal government’s appeal on residential school records

A lower court judge ruled to destroy the stories after 15 years unless consent is given to preserve

Most Read