Timber harvests in Canada have increased 14% in five years driven by higher lumber production and a rise in log exports, reports the Wood Resource Quarterly.
There has been a steady increase in timber harvests in Canada since the global financial
crisis because of higher export demand for softwood lumber in the US and increased exports of logs to Asia, reports the Wood Resource Quarterly. In 2015, it is expected that log export volumes will decline about 21% from their all-time high in 2013.
In 2014, Canada harvested an estimated 137 million m3 of industrial roundwood, which was 1.3% more than in 2013 and 14% more than in 2010. According to analysis by Wood Resources International, a large majority of the harvested trees, almost three-quarters, were softwood sawlogs destined for the sawmilling industry predominantly in the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec. A major share of harvested hardwood trees is small-diameter logs used by the pulp mills and OSB manufacturers in Alberta and the Eastern provinces. Hardwood harvest levels have been fairly stable at around 20 million m3 for a number of years, while softwood harvests have been steadily climbing following the global financial crisis. From 2008 to 2014, softwood log removals in Canada increased by 24%.
The biggest changes in log usage the past five years have been the increased use of softwood sawlogs for lumber production, and the higher consumption of hardwood logs by the OSB industry. In 2014, WRI estimates that 72% of the total harvest was consumed by softwood sawmills, 17% was logs destined for the pulp industry and the remaining 11% was logs to be used by the wood panel sector and for exports.
Over 90% of log exports have been from Western Canada to Asia the past five years, with the total volume shipped overseas increasing from 2.0 million m3 in 2010 to 5.8 million m3 in 2014. Log volumes from British Columbia to China have seen a spectacular rise from about only 100,000 m3 in 2007 to 3.4 million m3 in 2014.
During the first seven months of 2015, export volumes to Asia declined 17% from the same period in 2014, and total shipments for 2015 will probably be less than five million m3, or almost 21% below the all-time high two years ago.
Although the export market still pays higher prices for both Douglas-fir and hemlock sawlogs than does the domestic market, the average log export price has been sliding faster than domestic prices, according to the WRQ. Average export prices to Asia have fallen about 20% from 2013 to 2015.