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Q-WEB Heads Up New Quebec Marketing Push

Copyright 1997. Contact publisher for permission to use.

The Quebec wood products industry has seen substantial change over the past five years. Along with increased lumber production there has been a growing awareness of the need for better products and adding value; proof is the $5 billion invested during this period in plant upgrading.

Another change is an increased awareness of the need to work more closely together as an industry, which five years ago saw the start of a new promotion organization called The Quebec Wood Export Bureau, otherwise known as Q-WEB.

Q-WEB was started by Guy Rancourt, of Sovebec Inc. as the wood products industry was beginning its expansion. From 1990 to 1995, value-added production, in both softwood and hardwood, tripled. Q-WEB was formed to promote these products internationally. Coincidentally at this time, a similar trend was beginning in British Columbia, and Q-WEB developed a close working relation with the BC Wood Specialties Group, which endures today.

Over the same period, softwood lumber production increased 52 per cent but interest by producers in offshore markets was waning. By 1995, offshore export volume had declined by more than half. This was due mainly to the resurging US market, where prices hit record highs.

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Consequently, for offshore promotion, Quebec lumber producers were content to participate in the promotion organization for Eastern Canada, called "the Bureau de Promotion des Industries du Bois" (BPIB), with its main focus on the UK and European markets. That changed to discontent with the imposition of the quota, which resulted in Quebec mills losing about one-quarter of their 1995 duty-free access to the US. It was either absorb a tariff of up to $100 per MFBM on shipments in excess of the quota, or consider alternative markets. As Quebec's partners in BPIB were affected by the quota in different ways (see LSJ, May 1997) it was decided by members of the Quebec Lumber Manufacturers Association to turn to Q-WEB to aggressively expand its offshore market base.

For Q-WEB executive director Sylvain Labbe and his staff, the resulting membership expansion from 75 to 200 brings imposing new challenges. In a recent interview, Labbe said the organization will be developing different strategies for the following product groups: softwood value-added and components; hardwood lumber and components; hardwood flooring; wooden building materials; prefabricated housing; and softwood lumber. The groups will fund their own individual promotion programs but will share in the cost of running the Quebec City and overseas offices.

The provincial government, represented on the board, will continue to assist in funding offshore promotion.

For Labbe, the challenge will be to handle the increased activity and complexity of such a diverse group. Its broad product base is a big advantage, however, which as Labbe observes will attract an equally broad range of customers. He said Q-WEB will work closely with member companies in developing flexible programs and to respond quickly to market changes. Offshore promotion will be global in scope and include markets such as China, South Africa, Japan and the Mideast countries. At this writing, field representatives have been appointed on a contract basis in the UK and in Germany, basically for grade and market access matters. Two Japanese nationals in the Quebec government office in Japan will work closely with Q-WEB.

"Our commitment is to have more Quebec wood products overseas in a wider base of markets," said Labbe.

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