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Minister bullish on local wood industry
FORESTS MINISTER Pat Bell remains convinced there's good news coming this year when it comes to a revival of the regional woods industry.
During a Feb. 22 conference call in which he said an increase in lumber shipments to China has contributed to new mills or re-opened mills throughout BC, Bell expressed optimism for the northwest.
“We've been very active on the Terrace file,” said Bell of opportunities in and around the area.
The optimism includes sawmilling and bio-energy, he added.
The last operating wood processing facility, Eurocan's pulp and paper mill in Kitimat, closed just over a year ago and owner West Fraser has started selling off equipment.
The company has a mothballed mill in Terrace, Skeena Sawmills, and wood tenure for sale if it can find the right buyer.
To date, West Fraser has said it is unable to comment on any offers it might or might have received.
But Bell said he and his ministry have been actively involved in issues surrounding the Skeena Sawmills facility.
This month also marks the second anniversary of Bell urging area wood licence holders to pool their resources in order to draw in more interested investors.
That resulted in the formation of the BC Northwest Wood Coalition which has since been promoting the area as a place in which companies can efficiently and profitably set up business.
To date, the region has experienced an increase in logging leading to whole log exports.
In the meantime, Bell predicts that by next year or 2013, China will buy more BC softwood lumber than the United States.
As it is, based on Dec. 2010 sales figures, China is on the verge of buying 5 billion board feet of lumber a year.
American buyers purchased seven billion board feet in 2010.
Bell has made regular trips to China to promote the BC forest industry.
It's resulted in building relationships leading to more acceptance of BC lumber as a building material in a country where concrete and cement has held sway.
Bell said he's particularly pleased that BC lumber is playing an increasingly greater role in the Chinese construction industry.
The amount of housing needed in China can easily outstrip the amount of wood BC, Canada and even other lumber producers can provide, he said.
If anything, BC is now running into trouble finding enough shipping containers and port facilities to send wood to China, Bell continued.
“It's our single biggest challenge,” he said.