log exportsIn June 2016, a report produced by the Truck Loggers Association reignited a conversation about the future of forestry and the role log exports play in the coastal forest industry.

PFLA was quoted in two articles—one from the Vancouver Sun and another from Business in Vancouver.

Unfortunately, from our perspective, neither article got it quite right.

Because we’re passionate about sustainable forest management, and deeply invested in the future of B.C.’s forest industry, it’s worth spending some time to clarify inaccuracies and misconceptions in the spirit of informed discussion and better understanding.

(For those of you who’ve heard this all before thanks for your patience.)

There is more than enough timber available for coastal mills.

A surplus of logs exists on the coast of B.C. In 2013, total coastal log harvest was 18.6 million cubic meters, while coastal mill consumption was 12.0 million cubic meters. In other words, harvested timber volume exceeded coastal mill capacity by 6.6 million cubic meters.

Domestic mills get first dibs on logs in B.C.

Logs cannot be exported from the B.C. coast without first being offered to domestic buyers. Not only that, log prices to local mills are artificially held below international market prices. Log export restrictions allow domestic buyers to ignore true market prices and block export permit applications with offers of contrived “domestic” market prices (sometimes as low as half the international price).

Log exports are a symptom of mill closures, not a cause.

Because the surplus test ensures logs cannot be exported until domestic demand is satisfied (at deeply discounted, artificially low prices) log exports cannot possibly be the cause of mill closures.

The coastal forest industry wouldn’t exist without log exports.

Ironically, without log exports domestic mills wouldn’t have any logs at all. It’s the ability to export logs to the international market that keeps log producers profitable. Thousands of well-paying jobs, economic activity, Crown land stumpage and tax revenues all grind to a halt without log exports.

Log export restrictions are a subsidy, not a solution.

Despite access to the cheapest logs on earth, for over a century, mills are, and will continue, closing in British Columbia. Restricting log exports from private land does not solve this problem. Under log surplus conditions, to maintain a surplus test for logs from private land, using domestic not international prices, serves only to suppress log prices and transfer value from tree growers to mills.

Private growers would prefer to sell logs locally.

Private landowners are happy to sell logs into the domestic market at competitive international prices, but selling our products at a loss, and subsidising other sectors, is not sustainable. In 2014, forest owners lost over 45 million dollars as a result of log export restrictions.

The majority of log exports come from Crown land.

Both articles state the majority of log exports come from private land. This isn’t true. It was at one point, but today, log exports from Crown lands exceed private lands by almost 50%. Between 2007 and 2014, private land log exports decreased by about 3%, while Crown land log exports increased by about 606%.

Log exports create jobs too.

Mill jobs aren’t the only jobs that matter. Over 4,750 people, and their families, rely on BC’s managed private forest lands for their livelihoods—tree planters, biologists, foresters, engineers, mechanics, fallers, loggers, road builders, tree nursery staff, clerical and support personnel. Together, these jobs generate over 1 billion dollars in annual economic activity, along with 150 million dollars in annual tax revenues.

For other perspectives on the surplus test and log export restrictions in BC see this story or pages 10 and 12 of this issue of the ABCFP journal.