B.C.’s forest industry has shifted to logging contractors to supply mills and export markets. (Black Press files)

B.C. loggers struggle despite record lumber prices

Province gets recommendations to stabilize contractor business

Even with record-high lumber prices driving the forest industry, logging contractors continue to struggle to stay in business, says B.C.’s main harvester group.

Members of the Truck Loggers Association are hoping for quick action by the B.C. government on recommendations from the recently completed review of logging contractor sustainability, conducted by former cabinet minister George Abbott.

“This report and recommendations basically validates the reality of logging contractors today,” said Dave Elstone, executive director of the TLA. “There is declining profitability for contractors across the province.”

The recommendations include establishing a minimum standard rate model for logging contractors by 2020, including equipment required, set-up times, fuel costs, crew costs and distances to be travelled. The report also calls for a government and industry-funded training program by 2019, to address the skilled worker shortage caused by people retiring or leaving the industry.

Elstone said contractors are working at less than full capacity, even with high lumber demand and prices, because they don’t have enough skilled operators to keep their trucks and harvest equipment going. The contractor system puts a lot of risk on loggers and they don’t generate the profits to manage that risk, so some are closing down, he said.

RELATED: How will Winter Harbour survive?

RELATED: Industry lauds Canadian lumber trade action

The TLA says its members are the foundation of an industry that supports 140,000 jobs in B.C. and generates $14 billion in revenues internationally, with lumber sales to China, Japan, Korea and other countries in addition to the U.S.

Forests Minister Doug Donaldson has responded cautiously to the report, offering to hire a facilitator to bring together large companies and contractors, with a deadline of deciding which recommendations to move on by the end of July.

Randy Spence, chair of the Interior Logging Association, said the report confirms that conditions are similar in his region as the B.C. coast.

Susan Yurkovich, president of the B.C. Council of Forest Industries, cautioned that logging contractor costs for forest companies are already higher than competing jurisdictions, and the industry needs to maintain global competitiveness.

B.C.’s lumber producers are also dealing with tariffs imposed by the U.S. government since the expiration of the latest softwood lumber trade agreement last year.

Just Posted

Intersection getting safety upgrade

Be prepared for traffic changes in Penticton’s industrial area

Summerland housing issues raised at candidate forum

High housing costs, low vacancy rates and lack of affordable housing addressed

Don’t be dazed and confused about cannabis legalization

Sitting down with an Okanagan lawyer to clear the haze of marijuana rules

Hero campaign raises $24,000 for Okanagan non-profits

Lowe’s Canada Heroes campaign was held throughout September

10 things still illegal in the new age of recreational cannabis

Pot is legal – but there are still a lot of rules, and breaking some could leave you in jail

Your morning news in 90: Oct. 17, 2018

Tune in for 90 seconds to get the top headlines for the Okanagan, Shuswap and Similkameen.

VOTE: Nature in Focus reader’s choice photo contest

The Penticton Western News Reader’s Choice photo contest

Who’s running in Penticton’s election?

Candidates for the Penticton municipal and school board election

Shuswap pot shops close as cannabis becomes legal

One marijuana dispensary won’t require city approvals as on First Nations land

B.C. Lions look to cement CFL playoff spot with victory over Eskimos

B.C. can cement a post-season berth in the wild West Division on Friday night with a home win over the Edmonton Eskimos

Canada ban on asbestos takes effect but mining residues are exempt

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna plans to announce the new regulations implementing the ban on Thursday in Ottawa

Okanagan College dives into cannabis courses

The college has adapted its programs in Kelowna

Harry and Meghan bring rain to drought-stricken Outback town

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are on day two of their 16-day tour of Australia and the South Pacific.

Demand for legalized cannabis in early hours draws lineups, heavy web traffic

Government-run and privately operated sales portals went live at 12:01 a.m. local time across Canada, eliciting a wave of demand.

Most Read