COLUMNS: More from less with forest products

After the recent presidential election some are warning that the softwood lumber agreement is going to be much harder to negotiate.

After the recent presidential election some are warning that the softwood lumber agreement is going to be much harder to negotiate.

U.S. lumber manufacturers will pressure the government to give them the competitive advantage while consumers will push for imports that will allow for reasonable lumber prices.

With the reduced supply of logs anticipated because of the beetles and a reduced market for the lumber it would be wise to look for ways to get more value added products which may be outside the lumber agreement.

A group of businesses in southeast B.C. is trying to convince the government to look at a fair distribution of logs to small value added businesses.

The approach is described in the article “Seeking a more balanced timber allocation in the BC interior’” by Jim Stirling in the October issue of the Logging and Sawmilling Journal.

The BC  Interior Lumber Manufacturers Association (ILMA) is encouraging the provincial government to consider a more balanced approach to timber allocation where commodity dimension lumber and value added wood manufacturers each have access to the fibre flow required to succeed.

The basic idea is to get the more valuable logs to manufacturers which can get the most value from the log.

The article is focusing on the south eastern area of the province but the same concept would apply to the entire province.

Ken Lalesnikoff chairman of the ILMA describes their 9 members reflecting a more European model of taking every piece of wood further up the value added chain.

The members are typically independent, family owned well established business.

They have survived the economic down turns by being adaptable and versatile and include pole manufacturers, veneer production facilities and sawmills characterized by extracting maximum value from each tree rather than high production.

Promotion of value added forest products is not new but according to ILMA the interest has not been this high for some time.

A 2013 report done by Simon Fraser University supports lLMAs views that specialty mills have higher levels of flexibility, diversity and orientation.

For example they have a willingness and ability to run their operations more flexibly and below their capacity during economic downturns.  They can produce a greater variety of products and can produce higher value added products while supporting more than twice the number of jobs per cubic meter of wood consumed.

Lastly they can more easily cooperate with each other to sort  logs in the bush ensuring they end up in the processing stream that maximizes its value and potential.

The association has been looking at some pilot projects  within the BC government Timber Sales Program and hosting a series of informational meetings with local and regional governments to explain its message and help ensure the survival of  its member mills.

Kalesnikoff would like to see a solution that’s beneficial to everyone and makes the forest industry the economic driver that it used to be.

Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.

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