Forest products booming at the moment

COVID- induced ‘Do-it-yourself’ explosion is partly responsible

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Hundreds of log trucks on the highways isn’t necessarily a sign that times are good in the forest products industry. But as it happens…

“Things are going very well,” says Ken Vanderwell, general manager of Vanderwell Contractors. “The lumber forest-sector ‘cylinder’ of the Alberta economy is firing strong!”

That’s the lumber side of things, which has rebounded nicely following a sharp drop around Easter due to the COVID outbreak. Oddly enough, it seems the pandemic also is at least partly responsible for the more recent rebound. Vanderwell says the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) market all across the country has really taken off this summer.

“Fence-boards, decking and home renovations have taken the lumber market by storm, as folks have been staying at home and they are now improving or re-creating their home living spaces. The activity has created shortages all across the country which in turn has driven prices upward. We expect strong prices to continue through into late fall when cold weather will reduce demand.”

The other main factor in pushing lumber prices up to near-record highs, Vanderwell says, is the drop in volume coming out of British Columbia. This is due to the double-whammy of mountain pine beetle and forest fires in that province.

The result of those plus other factors is 18 consecutive weeks of increases in the selling price of lumber, Vanderwell says.

A similar trend is affecting the market for plywood. A sharp drop in business in March and April, followed by a gradual improvement.

“Demand and pricing have rebounded strongly,” says Kevin Albrecht manager of the West Fraser’s Slave Lake veneer mill. As for OSB panels – which are produced by Tolko mills in Slave Lake and High Prairie – the market has improved as well in recent weeks.

Pulp and paper is “a mixed bag,” says Brock Mulligan of the Alberta Forest Products Association. Demand for newsprint is well down, while pulp to make surgical masks and tissues is a fairly hot commodity. There is also apparently (though we don’t have this from an official source) strong demand for pulp for making cardboard boxes. On the other hand demand for pulp for glossy paper is weak.

Loads of logs

One reason so much summer hauling is going on is the extensive off-site storage of logs that took place in the winter; another is the hot market for lumber and panelboard. Above is one of the storage areas on Hwy. 754, north of Slave Lake.

Share this post

Post Comment