Growing criticism of B.C.’s raw log exports
British Columbia‘s Forest Minister Steve Thomson has rejected the recommendations his own Timber Export Advisory Committee dozens of times in the past 3 months, resulting in millions of dollars worth of raw logs being sent to Asia rather than to B.C. mills.
In December, the Timber Export Advisory Committee ruled that logs that were being considered for export should instead be sold to independent manufacturer Teal Jones of Surrey.
Minister Thomson overruled this decision and the logs were sold to an overseas mill.
“The law in B.C., in effect since 1906, is that logs cannot be shipped out of the province unless they are considered ‘surplus’ to B.C.’s needs,” said British Columbia’s New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix. “The committee plainly ruled that these logs did not meet that surplus test and should not be exported.
“What the minister has done is make the Timber Export Advisory Committee irrelevant,” said Norm Macdonald, the New Democrat forest critic. “He’s essentially declared open season on raw log exports, even though we know that costs jobs.
Hanif Karmally, chief financial officer for the Teal-Jones Group, said, “There is room for exports, but I think the significant increase in exports is going to ensure nobody can put up another mill in B.C.”
The Teal-Jones Group’s sawmill in Surrey, B.C. is facing down time this week due to a shortage of fibre. Karmally said the company could hire another 100 to 115 workers if they had more logs.
Meanwhile, buyers from China, Japan, and South Korea are buying B.C.’s logs in record volumes, and at premium prices. Raw log exports have increased by 58% from 2010 to 2011 and 136% since 2009. More than 40% of all logs cut on the coast were exported in 2011.
Not everyone is in favour of reducing the export of raw logs.
Truck Loggers’ Association executive director Dave Lewis said B.C. has restricted coastal log exports for decades, but it has not solved the industry’s basic problems.
“Domestic buyers can only afford to pay $60 for a log that costs $78 to harvest,” Lewis said.
“To put things very bluntly from a Terrace area perspective, if log exports were banned today, we might as well close the doors and throw away the keys,” said Bill Sauer of the North West Loggers Association.
In his defense, Minister Thomson said he rejected the advice of his committee because his government is in the midst of a policy review on raw log exports and the committee appeared to be changing policy on its own by pushing more wood to local mills.
He said his government needs to find the “appropriate balance” to ensure harvesting jobs are maintained as well as processing jobs. He is set to visit the Teal-Jones operations next week. “The Teal-Jones boys know we are looking at this policy, what we are telling them is that it is under review.”
Asian log buyers outbidding B.C. mills (BC Local News)
Forest minister overrules his own committee, exports raw logs (New Democrats)
Liberals ignoring committee on raw log exports: Dix (Vancouver Sun)
B.C. raw log exports double as local mills go without (CBC)
Minister costing logging jobs, critics say (The Globe and Mail)