By Jim Stirling
Astimulating and encompassing agenda awaits the 700 or so anticipated delegates and guests to the 2019 British Columbia Council of Forest Industries (COFI) annual convention in Vancouver April 3 to 5.
Elected officials, forest company executives and experts from a range of industry supporting ventures will be on hand to provide insight and encourage an exchange of views on a full range of issues confronting the forest sector in 2019.
The year promises to be nothing if not interesting.
One of the characteristics of 2018 for the lumber production sector was the significant U.S. market volatility, reflected Susan Yurkovich, president and CEO of COFI. Lumber prices in the U.S. see-sawed from the $600 per thousand board foot level down to the $300s during the year.
“Volatility like that is not good for anybody,” observed Yurkovich.
Prices remained down but were more stable crossing the cusp into 2019.
“There has been a recent uptick in U.S. housing starts and the repair and remodeling sector is really significant for lumber consumption as we move toward the building season,” she noted.
Overseas, Asian markets continue their growing significance to British Columbia’s lumber producers, representing about 30 per cent of the province’s wood exports. Western media commentators have recently voiced concerns about the slowdown in the rate of growth in the Chinese economy and the world-wide impacts that could trigger. But despite the doomsayers, the Chinese economy is still predicted to achieve GDP growth of 6.2 per cent in 2019, according to The Economist magazine. Not too shabby a figure: the respective expectations for the Canadian and U.S. economies are 1.8 per cent and 2.2 per cent growth rates.
The sheer size of the Chinese economy means that overall 6.2 per cent predicted GDP growth in 2019 is spread across many areas and industries, noted Yurkovich.
The COFI CEO participated in a December 2018 trade mission to China, Japan and Korea. The visit was led by Doug Donaldson, (B.C.’s Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development) with the exception of the China segment, and was attended by about 40 forest industry representatives including those from First Nations groups.
The industry is focusing on three main areas within the Chinese lumber market which show considerable promise, said Yurkovich. Improving B.C. and Canadian wood use in the manufacturing sectors is one of those focus areas. When the Chinese market first burst on the consciousness of B.C. lumber producers as a serious market, the demand was primarily for low grade lumber. That situation has changed.
“Now the wood demand in China is moving up the value chain,” said Yurkovich.
The second focus area of opportunity for B.C. lumber is in industrial construction, she continued. “The Chinese are looking more to prefabricated products like panels that can delivered ready-made to the construction site. These products require less labour, improve quality and take less time to erect.”
The third broad area of potential for B.C. wood Yurkovich identified is in the resort and tourism sector. The growing middle class in China has more time and money for travel and relaxation. They are a demographic more aware of and concerned about pollution and that includes a marked preference for “green” building construction, she added. The two factors combine to create the perfect scenario for promoting the use of B.C. renewable wood products harvested from sustainably managed forests.
The Chinese middle class are also ageing—heading toward more than 500 million people older than 60—and they will require suitable living accommodations, continued Yurkovich. She credits the patient work of Canada’s federal and provincial governments along with the Canadian Wood Council—a federation of wood products industry associations—for positioning the forest industry to respond positively to China’s changing lumber requirements.
Changes also characterize the forest landscape back home. Two successive and significant wildfire seasons on the heels of the prolonged mountain pine beetle epidemic have seriously impacted the size and composition of B.C.’s working forests. “We need access to a steady flow of fibre at a reasonable price to be competitive. We are now a relatively high cost fibre area and that impacts our ability to compete,” explained Yurkovich.
At the time of writing, there was no certainty that the tripartite agreement reached between the U.S., Mexico and Canada to replace NAFTA would be fully implemented in its negotiated form. And the U.S.-imposed duties remain a further cost burden on Canadian softwood lumber imports into the U.S.
Those are the types of issues and factors that will form the backdrop to COFI’s 2019 convention. Organizers were fine-tuning the program details for the three-day event to be held at the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver Hotel and Conference Centre. COFI is inviting top-notch speakers, including ministerial level federal and provincial politicians, said Yurkovich. They will be complemented by a range of forest industry experts, along with those from the industry’s service and supply sectors. Many of those will also be participating as exhibitors at the convention.
A feature of the COFI events is having the opportunity to circulate and communicate built into the more formal part of the convention. The popular CEO panel will return in 2019: it’s where heads of forest companies chat more informally and candidly about the issues of the day.
An interesting parallel this year will be a similar format where future forest leaders are invited to contribute their thoughts and hopefully raise a wrinkled eyebrow or two in the process. Yurkovich cited another intriguing presentation planned for the convention. “It will look at how artificial intelligence technologies might better manage B.C.’s forests.”
For the latest in speaker and program information along with registration details consult www.cofi.org
BOOTH # and COMPANY
45 A.D. Rutherford International - www.adrutherford.com
3 BC First Nations Forestry Council - www.forestrycouncil.ca
7 BC Forest Safety Council (BCFSC) - www.bcforestsafe.org
13 BC Timber Sales - www.for.gov.bc.ca/bcts
8 BCIT - www.bcit.ca
28 BID Group of Companies - www.bidgroup.ca
30 & 31 Brunette Machinery Co. Inc. - www.brunettemc.com
42 Canadian Forest Industries Magazine (CFI) - www.woodbusiness.ca
0 Canadian Women in Timber (CWIT) - www.canadianwomenintimber.com
51 & 52 CN Rail - www.cn.ca
36 Denning Health Group - www.denninghealth.ca
17 DLA Piper (Canada) LLP - www.dlapiper.com/en/canada
41 DO2 Industrial - www.do2.ca/en
22 Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP - www.farris.com
24 Finning Canada - www.finning.com
38 Forest Practices Board - www.bcfpb.ca
49 Forestry Innovation Investment Ltd. - www.bcfii.ca
1 Forsite - www.forsite.ca
48 FPInnovations - www.fpinnovations.ca
29 Halco Software Systems Ltd. - www.halcosoftware.com
35 HewSaw Machines Inc. - www.hewsaw.com
44 Industrial Autolube Int’l Inc. - www.autolube.ca
18 Leavitt Machinery - www.leavittmachinery.com
15 LINCK GmbH - www.linck.com
16 Logging & Sawmilling Journal (LSJ) - www.forestnet.com
10 Lucidyne Technologies, Inc. - www.lucidyne.com
4 LumberShield Corporation - www.lumbershield.ca
46 Ministry of Finance, Forest Revenue Operations (FRO) - www.2.gov.bc.ca
32 & 33 Murray Latta Progressive Machines Inc. - www.mlpmachine.com
37 Nicholson Manufacturing - www.debarking.com
26 Optimil Machinery Inc. - www.optimil.com
27 Owens Corning - www.interwrap.com/protective-packaging
43 Petro-Canada Lubricants Inc. - www.lubricants.petro-canada.com
21 Porter Engineering Ltd. - www.portereng.com
11 Raptor Integration Inc. - www.raptorint.ca
19 Samuel Packaging Systems Group - www.samuel.com
14 SCSFP by Finna - www.finnagroup.com
23 SiCam Systems - www.sicamsystems.com
34 Signode Canada - www.signode.com
6 Springer Microtec Inc. - www.springer-microtec.com
5 Sustainability Forestry Initiative - www.sfiprogram.org
50 USNR - www.usnr.com
25 Valutec Wood Dryers Inc. - www.valutec.ca
20 VETS Group - www.vetsgroup.com
40 VK North America LLC - www.valonkone.com/north-america
2 Wellons Canada - www.wellons.ca
39 Wesgroup Equipment - www.wesgroupequipment.com
12 Westburne - www.westburne.ca
9 Wolftek Industries Inc. - www.wolftek.ca
47 Wood WORKS! BC / CWC - www.wood-works.ca
On the Cover:
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