Canadian Manufacturing

BC forestry sector posts first profits in 10 years

Demand from China pushing recovery

VICTORIA, B.C.: Western Canada’s forestry industry is turning over a new and greener leaf, according to the latest net earnings summary from PricewaterhouseCoopers, a Toronto-based consulting and research firm.

The PwC report found B.C.’s largest forest companies posted profits in the third quarter of 2010.

“This is the first time in a decade that we have seen quarterly profits across the board,” said B.C. forests, mines and lands Minister Pat Bell.

Western Canadian companies experienced aggregate net earnings of $179 million during the quarter — an improvement from the $201-million in losses over the same quarter last year.

The coastal industry recorded harvest levels up 70.1 per cent year to date. In the interior industry, harvesting increased 24.7 per cent.

Bell said demand from Asia Pacific is making up for the sluggish US economy.

For the first time ever, the relative value of B.C. forest product exports to China and Japan surpassed the value of forest products shipped to the US.

Pulp, paper, plywood, oriented strand board and lumber to China and Japan represented 42.8 per cent against exports to the U.S. of 40.4 per cent.

With greater demand, the timber harvesting sector added 4,500 more jobs over 2009, according to the province.

That’s translated into more than 20 sawmills that have re-opened in B.C. in the past year, creating an additional 1,400 jobs over 2009.

The B.C. government also pointed out that the average price of lumber has increased. Now, 2x4s are selling at $250 per 1,000 board feet compared to $175 the same time last year.

But not all of Canada is reporting similar surges.

The PwC report found losses deepened for Eastern Canadian-based producers — from $351 million in the third quarter of 2009 to $637 million this quarter.

Most producers there reported softer demand, though some said production and shipment volumes were up during the period, the report said.

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