Photo courtesy of the Downtown Victoria Business Association

FOREST INK: Canada’s forest products’ future with China

While we have 10 per cent of the U.S. population we have less than three per cent of China’s

While we have 10 per cent of the U.S. population (our closest and largest trading partner) we have less than three per cent of the 1.4 billion people in China.

According to a 2004 publication “Forestry in China, Policy, Consumption, and Production in Forestry’s Newest Superpower” China’s forest market is one of the largest in the world in terms of production, consumption, and imports of wood products.

Its large, forest estate and massive population has meant that it has also for some time been a leading nation in terms of the number of processing plants, number of people employed in the forestry sector, the scope of its non-timber forest markets, and the overall level of contributions of forest enterprises and markets to local livelihoods.

However, despite this importance the exact nature of China’s forest market has long been a mystery to the outside world, as well as to most Chinese.

Read More: FOREST INK: Replanting badly battered forest landscapes in B.C.

Until recently there has been limited interest, or capacity, to seek a more detailed picture but this has changed in the last few years with China’s booming forest imports and rapidly expanding domestic market. According to a federal government source, lumber exports to China have grown remarkably in recent years and are beginning to expand beyond low-grade timber to higher value products.

Forest products associations and provincial agencies have partnered with the Canada Wood Export Program to develop Chinese demand for higher grade lumber.

China’s demand for Canadian pulp has also been growing steadily since 2000, and now makes up 34 per cent of total Canadian pulp exports. Our softwood lumber exports to China have risen in the last decade, reaching more than $1 billion in 2017.

China accounted for 16 per cent of our total volume of softwood lumber exports in 2017 and is expected to remain one of the fastest-growing producer and importer of softwood lumber in the world in the coming years.

China’s large population has always had a major impact on many aspects of the worlds resources including climate changes. In the next few decades India is expected to surpass the population of China because of a number of Chinese population control programs including the one child per family policy.

This program was dropped in favour of the two children per family, but China’s population growth is expected to be in negative numbers by 2035 while India’s is expected to stay above two per cent during the same time frame. Even with the negative growth rate the population of China is estimated to still be 1.4 billion by 2050.

While there are a number of other countries with negative growth rates, the huge population of China will no doubt have the biggest impact on slowing the growth rate of the world’s population.

My brother-in-law worked in the Chinese education system during the implementation of the one child per family policy and got an interesting response when he asked one of the students what they thought of the child restriction policy.

“It is our gift to the world,” was the response which has always impressed me and got me thinking of what will be Canada’s gift to the world.

One of potential gifts as a country has been described in a new book by two Canadian demographers. In Empty Planet, authors John Ibbitson and Darrell Bricker paint a more optimistic, but cautious future about the world’s population.

I suggest readers check out some of the Youtube interviews with authors Ibbitson and Bricker as well as one featuring Graham Turner from Melbourne which provides more details about their research.

Read More: LETTERS: Wolf kills, wilderness protection and caribou recovery

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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