The latest reductions in B.C. sawmill output may be enough to stop the slide of lumber prices after they hit record highs last year.
Canfor’s province-wide sawmill shutdowns were announced this week as North American prices for spruce-pine-fir two-by-fours and two-by-sixes slipped below $300 per 1,000 board feet, according to the latest figures from Madison’s Lumber Reporter. A year ago the two-by-four price was above $650, and the downward trend has continued since the beginning of 2019.
Canfor’s curtailments take effect next week, with a target of reducing B.C. lumber production by 200 million board feet. Sawmills at Houston and Vanderhoof are shutting down for four weeks, with two-week breaks mills in Prince George, Chetwynd, Fort St. John, Radium Hot Springs and Elko.
The only Canfor mill in B.C. to continue production is Wynnwood in the Creston Valley, which produces high-grade specialty boards used in furniture, siding, fascia, doors and windows and other fine woodwork.
Tolko Industries announced in May it will permanently shut down its Quest Wood sawmill in Quesnel, and Canfor followed suit last week with the pending closure of its Vavenby sawmill near Clearwater.
Interfor is reducing operating days at three B.C. Interior mills, at Castlegar, Grand Forks and Adams Lake. Interfor has agreed to pay $60 million for Canfor’s timber rights to Vavenby, to supply logs to its 100-year-old Adams Lake sawmill, but that sale must get ministry approval under the NDP government’s new legislation.
B.C. Liberal forests critic John Rustad said there have been 83 weeks of operational downtime at B.C. mills so far in 2019, as well as the two permanent closures. On top of that, Norbord announced this week it is shutting down its oriented strandboard plant in 100 Mile House in August, due to log supply problems after wildfires and the depletion of mountain pine beetle-killed timber in the B.C. Interior.
“There are possible solutions that government could employ to increase supply to OSB operations like Norbord and make B.C. more competitive by bringing down the highest production costs in North America,” Rustad said.
Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett called on the province to help the people losing their jobs. The Vavenby mill employs more than 170 people, and Norbord’s mill in 100 Mile House employs 160.