By: The Working Forest Staff
View From the Stump – December 2020
By David Elstone, RPF
The Spar Tree Group
Major changes are on the horizon for the BC forest industry. Not only is the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development to be divided into two Ministries, the proverbial table has been set for significant structural shifts in the industry itself.
Recognizing that the province’s forest resource is capable of more than just making 2x4s, Premier John Horgan asked in his mandate letter to Minister Katrine Conroy for “the transition of our forestry sector from high volume to high-value production, increasing the value-added initiatives of our forest economy.” In addition, the Premier has asked that a portion of the allowable annual cut be dedicated towards “higher value producers who can demonstrate their ability to create new jobs for workers in BC.”
If there was one group set to capitalize on this new direction towards value-added, it should be the independent wood processors consisting of sawmills, remanufacturers, custom cutters and wholesalers who rely on entrepreneurialism and innovation in order to offset their general lack of forest tenure ownership. T
The November 2020 issue of the View From The Stump highlighted the ongoing downward trends of coastal BC harvesting and lumber production and that hopefully, the next four years of political stability will create the opportunity for the new NDP provincial government to change these trends. Invigorating the value-added side of the industry is one path forward to addressing ways to maximize the harvest and increase production. To be clear, such opportunities in value-added initiatives can occur both on the coast and the interior, particularly in the southern region. Unfortunately, despite a strong political desire for higher-value production, there is actually no comprehensive picture of what the current state of the value-added sector looks like in the province, nor is there a strategy on how to expand it.
To be impactful, significant investment is required. Investment Fund – If you want something to happen, you’ve got to put your money where your mouth is… The Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation has been asked to launch a strategic investment fund to invest in high-potential BC businesses to help them scale and grow. That sounds like a golden opportunity for value-added innovators to access capital. This fund or something like it could be used as an accelerator to fast track the development of products and manufacturing processes that support the transition of the industry, provided it does not draw the ire of the US government in terms of being viewed as an “aid” to the Canadian lumber industry. The above framework of ideas is just one of many paths that could be taken to shift the BC forest industry towards increasing value-added manufacturing. There is lots of work to transition to higher-value production but conditions are right. Now is the time for independent wood processors to rise to the occasion and grow their presence.