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Nov  2003

Guest Column

Canada Wood helping to create a brand image for Canadian wood products.

By Jeff Serveau

Bridges to new markets for sawmills: the Canada Wood Export Program is helping forest companies and industry associations to expand in emerging markets.

The world appetite for wood products is substantial at the moment. While this is good news for Canada, the supplier of nearly 20 per cent of global trade in forest products, the down side is that traditional and new competitors are all vying to satisfy that appetite. The world is essentially awash in wood.

Part of our job at Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan) Canadian Forest Service is to help create a brand image for Canada as the supplier of premium wood products. If we could ship an additional five or six per cent of our wood products offshore, it would take the pressure off suppliers who have no option other than the US—at a time when many companies are facing high duties in the American market—and it would create a host of new jobs. We’re talking about a real win/win situation. To address this challenge, the Canada Wood Export Program (Canada Wood) was established in May 2002 as a five-year, $35 million initiative. A cost-shared program, where NRCan is partnering with wood product associations and industry, Canada Wood aims to expand the offshore export opportunities of Canadian wood products in traditional and emerging markets. The program has won kudos from the industry.

Sylvain Labbé of the Québec Wood Export Bureau (QWEB) has high praise for Canada Wood. It has helped his organization make significant inroads into various offshore venues. “One of our main objectives is to support the growth of Canadian solid wood products in priority markets such as China, Japan and Europe,” says Labbé. “To gain greater exposure and increase market penetration in these markets, we developed new promotional material and activities for those countries. Support by Canada Wood is both timely and critical to our ongoing promotional efforts.”

Paul Newman, of British Columbia’s Council of Forest Industries (COFI), adds that Canada Wood funding significantly improved market access in Asia for its members. “Examples of recent successes are the acceptance of fire code approvals for wood construction in Japan and the inclusion in Taiwan’s codes of a wood-frame construction chapter with North American species, sizes and design values.”

Canada Wood has three elements designed to: brand Canada’s wood products through enhanced and coordinated industry presence in offshore markets; increase product knowledge in export markets through market development and promotional activities; and improve market access by providing technical support to issues such as building codes and product standards in offshore markets. For instance, there is a lot of work being done in China where wood is making inroads into the traditional concrete housing market.

Forintek is involved, along with COFI, in the development of China’s National Building Code. NRCan is involved in the funding and, once the Code is in place, our partners have a promotional campaign planned. Canada Wood is involved in a number of other international markets, including the UK where there is a resurgence in wood-frame housing. We’re working with ‘Super E’ an energy efficiency program for housing initiated by NRCan and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to take advantage of some changes in laws dealing with energy efficiency. A campaign in the 1980s by the UK brick and block association hammered the timber industry, alleging moisture problems with wood-frame housing. It wasn’t true, but it reduced the wood-frame market from around 17 per cent of starts to about three per cent. It’s taken 10 years to get that figure back up to about 15 per cent.

Bill Downing, chief executive officer of BC Wood Specialties Group, says that the emerging markets of China and India are the wood products markets of tomorrow. “However, planning and taking advantage of the opportunities in these countries is a significant challenge,” he adds. “Through the Canada Wood Program, BC Wood is bridging the gap between BC manufacturers and the new consumers of our high-value wood products.”

Jeff Serveau is Program Manager of Canada Wood. This article originally appeared in the Summer/Fall 2003 issue of Solutions, the Canadian Forest Service newsletter. It is reprinted with the permission of the Canadian Forest Service of Natural Resources Canada. Other Solutions stories that may be of interest can be found at http://nrcan-rncan.gc.ca/cfs-scf .

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