BC log exports was a hot topic last week – in the legislature, in the newspapers and in the spirited conversations of workers, families and communities who depend on the forest industry for their livelihoods.

 Like most hot topics, the log export debate is often riddled with misinformation, rhetoric and assumptions. Here at the PFLA blog, we represent people who directly benefit from private forestry operations. We’d like to take a few moments to clear things up from our perspective.

6 Basic Facts Everyone Should Know About Log Exports in BC

1.  Log exports are essential to private forestry.

Without access to log export markets, none of the 3,000-plus people directly employed in the stewardship of BC’s coastal private managed forest land would be working today.

2.   A surplus of timber is available to sawmills, pulp mills and value-added manufacturers on the BC coast. 

We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: there is no log shortage. In fact, there’s a surplus of logs. Here’s the math:

  • Timber available for harvest and processing = 24 million cubic meters
  • Domestic processing capacity = 16 million cubic meters
  • The difference = 8 million cubic meters of surplus logs

3.   Domestic sawmills need to take responsibility for their own  “supply” problems.

There are plenty of logs available on the BC coast. If domestic sawmills want to ensure an adequate supply of logs, there are a number of ways to do it:

  • Offer competitive log prices.
  • Fully harvest public land timber quotas.
  • Buy logs on the open market from First Nations, market loggers, community forests, woodlot licences and BC Timber Sales (BCTS) operators.
  • Bid directly for timber available through BCTS timber sales.

4.   Log prices are the issue, not log shortages.

BC has the world’s lowest log prices. Domestic sawmills offer prices lower than production costs. The result: No incentive to produce and sell logs to domestic sawmills. Here’s some more math:

  • Cost per cubic meter to produce a log from coastal public lands = $78
  • Typical log price offered (Teal Jones) = $60
  • Recent low-ball log price offer = $43
  • Average price of the same logs sold to export customers = $90

5.   Log exports are NOT the cause of mill closures and job losses.

In fact, without log exports domestic mills wouldn’t have any timber at all. There would be no forest stewardship and no log production. The ability to sell some logs at a premium (log exports) is the only reason it’s economically viable to sell other logs, at artificially low prices, to domestic mills. Jobs, economic activity, crown land stumpage and tax revenues all grind to a halt without log exports.

6.   There’s no such thing as a raw log.

Manufactured logs are no different than any other product – lumber, pulp, poles, veneer – they are but one in a mix of many forest products. A product, that at this point in time, plays an essential role in keeping the boat of BC forest stewardship afloat.

Please visit Log Exports: A Symptom Not a Cause for a slightly updated and revised version.