Canfor again takes top lumber producer spot
Canadian mills overcame duties in 2002
The seventh annual survey of lumber producers confirms that Canadian sawmills right across the country were able to overcome stiff US countervailing and anti-dumping duties to post lumber production gains in 2002. However, output results were mixed geographically. Western Canadian companies recorded gains averaging seven to eight per cent, while eastern companies were challenged to hold volumes to their 2001 levels.
The annual list of Canada’s Top 30 Softwood Lumber Producers is researched and compiled by R E Taylor & Associates Ltd and WOOD Markets Monthly newsletter and is published jointly by Logging & Sawmilling Journal and WOOD Markets Monthly newsletter. BC-based Canfor Corporation was Canada’s largest lumber producer in 2002—for the fourth year in a row. As with the last three Top 30 surveys, there were no significant shifts in company rankings—the move from the end of quotas under the Softwood Lumber Agreement in 2001 to punishing US duties in May 2002 has paralyzed normal business activities for virtually all Canadian companies.
Aside from a few single and small sawmill acquisitions, all was quiet on the consolidation front in the Canadian forest industry. Rather, it was another year of survival in the face of uncertainty surrounding US–Canada negotiations on softwood lumber, and the problems associated with current duties averaging 27 per cent. The annual survey shows—as it did in 2001—few changes in the rankings of the top 20 firms.
The only change of note was the rise of West Fraser to number two spot and the slide of Abitibi-Consolidated to number four. Despite the duties on US-bound shipments and sawmill returns that hit 16-year lows, lumber output in Canada rose by an estimated one billion board feet in 2002, to hit 29.5 billion board feet. Ten Canadian companies attained the one-billion-board feet production mark in 2002, up from eight in 2001. Canfor’s SPF lumber production totaled 2.817 billion board feet at its 13 mills in BC and Alberta.
This huge 550-million-board feet increase from 2001’s 2.265 billion board feet can be partially accounted for by three-shift production at some mills in the second half of 2002. At the number two spot, up from number four in 2001, was West Fraser Timber, with 2.065 billion board feet from its 14 Canadian mills (including its share of production from three joint-ownership mills but excluding its US-owned mills). West Fraser also added one mill in 2002 with its purchase of Skeena Cellulose’s Smithers, BC mill.
Weyerhaeuser Canada was ranked third, with 2.001 billion board feet at its 12 SPF mills (including three in Ontario and six coastal BC operations). Slipping to fourth was Abitibi-Consolidated. With mills stretching from BC to Quebec, the company came in at 1.892 billion board feet, down five per cent. The Slocan Group held its fifth-place spot, with 1.62 billion board feet despite temporary curtailments at two of its nine mills starting in late August.
Slocan and West Fraser remain Canada’s lowest-cost SPF manufacturers. Tembec retained sixth spot with 1.155 billion board feet of softwood production from its mills (including three in BC). Weldwood (a division of International Paper) climbed by one spot to come in at number seven, with 1.142 billion board feet at its seven mills (including three joint-venture mills).
Privately held Buchanan Lumber was ranked number eight, with an estimated 1.1 billion board feet from its seven Ontario mills. Tolko Industries was ninth, with 1.038 billion board feet from six operations in BC, Alberta and Manitoba (the company’s first taste of the billion-board feet threshold). Domtar retained tenth spot with 1.016 billion board feet at its 12 mills in Eastern Canada.
The top 30 lumber producers accounted for 23.53 billion board feet—or 80 per cent—of Canada’s total production of approximately 29.5 billion board feet in 2002.
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