West Fraser is reducing lumber production at its western Canadian sawmills and temporarily suspending plywood production in Quesnel as it responds to the COVID-19 pandemic and declining demand for forest products.
West Fraser announced the changes Thursday, March 19 as the company released its COVID-19 pandemic response plan.
“In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, West Fraser is taking steps to protect its employees and respond to changing market conditions,” according to a news release. “The health and safety of our employees, their families and the communities we work in are vitally important. West Fraser has taken a series of actions to ensure a safe and productive working environment. West Fraser has implemented changes to mitigate potential exposure at our worksites, with a focus on thorough cleaning, strict travel limitations, health education and appropriate social and physical distancing at all company sites.”
West Fraser says that as the demand for forest products has begun to decline, it is also making several changes to operating schedules at its manufacturing operations.
Starting Monday, March 23, lumber production will be reduced at western Canada sawmills by approximately 18 per cent or 12 million board feet per week, and lumber production at the company’s U.S. South sawmills will be reduced by approximately 24 per cent or 15 million board feet per week.
“These reductions will be implemented through various means, including reduced operating hours, elimination of overtime, elimination of shifts and curtailment of operations,” according to West Fraser. “Shipping will be maintained as needed to fulfill order commitments.”
These temporary reductions are expected to stay in place until at least April 6.
Plywood production will be temporarily suspended at West Fraser’s Quesnel plywood facility from March 23 until at least April 6. The company says this will reduce the company’s plywood production by 5,000 thousand square feet per week.
At West Fraser’s jointly-owned Cariboo Pulp and Paper Mill in Quesnel, the scheduled maintenance shutdown has been deferred due to risk stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Absences due to COVID-19 policy are increasing at some of the company’s other pulp mills, and it is possible that curtailment of operations at these mills may be necessary due to key technical resources not being available,” according to West Fraser.
West Fraser says actions are also underway to reduce the company’s planned capital spending for 2020 by $75 million through the delay and deferral of projects that had not yet been started.
“West Fraser is regularly monitoring market conditions and contractor availability,” states the news release. “Further potential steps on capital expenditure are being evaluated as the situation unfolds. The COVID-19 crisis threatens to further impair staff availability and create market volatility. West Fraser is monitoring the situation closely, and it is possible that additional reductions in production or operating curtailments may be necessary.”