MONTRÉAL‑Canada’s forestry industry has an opportunity to gain competitive global advantage in the global $200‑billion market for bio-products made from trees, says a Forestry Products Association of Canada (FPAC) study.
By integrating new bio-technologies, Canada could harness the benefits of its massive forests and create thousands of jobs.
Canada’s forest products industry is worth about $54‑billion annually, representing almost two per cent of its GDP. The industry employs about 600,000 Canadians.
Thousands of jobs, however, were lost in the recession and the digital revolution.
While wood and pulp markets will remain, the study suggests developing bio-alternatives, oil and pharmaceuticals from feed stocks could produce up to five time as many jobs as stand-alone bio-energy plants.
Our forests will also be used to replace fossil fuels in the development of products such as tires, clothing fibres, lighter aircraft and biodegradable plastics.
Canada is already producing a range of bioproducts, but FPAC says the industry is not maximizing the product’s contribution to the industry’s bottom line.
It suggests the federal government should provide $1.5 billion to encourage industry diversification to eco-friendly uses like bio-chemicals and bio-energy.
Canada accounted for just two per cent of the global investment in biomass-derived energy between 2005 and 2009, compared with 75 per cent by the three largest economic areas.
The study says Canadian industry needs policies that facilitate the transportation and transmission of green energy and encourage early adoption of promising technologies.
Industry must also seek new partnerships outside the forest sector to bring bio-products to market more quickly.
Potential partners include the oil and gas, chemical, auto, aerospace and agricultural sectors, as well as academia.
“Just as the industrial age gave way to the information age, the bio-age is being heralded as the next revolution to transform the globe economically, environmentally and socially.”