Demand for plywood is red hot: Slave Lake mill going flat out

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

A recent article in The Leader about the demand for oriented strandboard products being very hot could have included the plywood story. But information from that side of the industry came in a bit later, in the form of an email from the manager of West Fraser’s Slave Lake Veneer mill.

As expected, things are hopping. People want plywood, and the mills can’t produce it fast enough.

“Plywood is currently at a record high demand and pricing,” says Kevin Albrecht.

What that translates to is full production at the mill, with logging and hauling both going full tilt. The warm weather during the first three weeks of January didn’t help. The arrival of colder temperatures was certainly welcome, because harvesting and hauling depend to some extent on well-frozen ground. So things are going well now.

“There is no indication of how long high prices and demand will last,” Albrecht says, “but West Fraser has strong orders for plywood into the new year.”

The veneer mill employs about 140 people, Albrecht says. Fourteen contractors are engaged at the moment in supplying wood to the mill.

West Fraser getting bigger

West Fraser has been in the news lately due to its acquisition of Norbord. That is apparently not finalized yet, but an announcement on it is expected early this month. The takeover may not mean much in Slave Lake, but for the company and its shareholders it is certainly a big deal. Norbord is “the world’s largest producer of oriented strandboard,” says the Wikipedia article on the Toronto-based company. It has 13 OSB mills in Canada, the U.S. and Europe, as well as four mills making other wood products. Two of the mills are in Alberta – one in Grande Prairie and one in High Level.

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