Tuesday, December 9, 2014
In a recent release, FPAC has declared that Canadian forest products export are up 10% this year and forest products are Canada’s number one export to Asia and the industry makes up 12% of Canada’s manufacturing GDP.
These positive facts cast a different light than recent stories suggesting that the Canadian forest industry is virtually dying especially the pulp and paper sector.
It certainly is true that the industry was devastated during the recent recession and that the pulp and paper sector was especially hard hit because of the rise of electronic media.
However, things are now looking up as the industry has transformed and found its footing once again.
Exports are going up. In fact, exports to China have increased 275% over the past decade. Overall Canada is the world’s second largest forest product exporter. And the forest products industry has the second largest trade balance of any industry in Canada next to oil and gas.
There is also a cautious optimism about the future. The focus is on innovation as the engine of growth and maximizing the value from wood fibre. Canada has been a global leader in the research and development of innovations from wood including cellulose nano-crystals. Wood fibre is now being used in car parts, clothing, chemicals, cosmetics and more. As a bonus, many of these products, sourced from a renewable resource, will be replacing products made from more carbon intensive materials.
The development of engineered wood products such as cross-laminated timber is allowing the construction of higher wood-frame buildings. Ontario recently followed the example of British Columbia to permit six-storey wood frame buildings, up from the current four storeys, and the National Building Code is expected to follow suit next year.
Many public forest companies have also seen increases in their stock value in the past year. The economic situation could also further improve because the lower value of the Canadian dollar could further boost exports.
These kind of developments have given the industry enough confidence to set the goal of generating an additional $20billion in new products and markets by the end of the decade.
There are no doubt many challenges remaining in the Canadian forest products sector. However, it is not a sunset industry – instead the sun is rising on a new forward-looking value-added forest industry that will continue to create jobs and prosperity in Canada.