Monday, September 17, 2012

BC 2013 Tree Planting Forecast at 260 Million Trees

The number of trees planted in BC in 2013 is expected to rise, according to the WSCA ( Western Silvicultural Contractors Association).


Planting 2013 forecasted as one of the largest since mid 90s.

Using the latest sowing request (SPAR) data for planting in 2013the WSCA is forecasting one of the largest seasons in years. Next year could see nearly 260 million seedlings planted - up from 237 million this year according to SPAR. The 2013 estimate is based on the number of seedlings already sown, combined with the historical trends for summer planting stock orders. Those 2013 summer planting requests are just now coming in, but over the last few years the Interior summer plant sowing has been around 40 million seedlings annually. Sowing requests for summer planting have also been increasing over the last few years along with the provincial total. If that trend is consistent, we could see an annual total approaching 260 million, the third largest since 1997. The other big years were 2006 and 2007; just before the crash hit the sector with planting ebbing as low as 165 million by 2010. 

With the spring planting numbers confirmed, the trends by region show the Northern Interior to be the prime beneficiary, increasing from 71 million to 82 million next spring. The Coast region is seeing a three million increase to 20 million seedlings for the spring. The South Interior is the only depressed trenddropping slightly from 102 million seedlings to 98 million next spring. Summer planting this year in those regions came in for the Coast at 8 million including this fall, the North Interior at 25 million, and the South Interior at around 12 million. 

Will there be enough planters?

The pair of big years in the last decade produced the only upward blip in rates paid to workers. Other than the short-lived 2007 five percent up-tick, piece rates continued their decline into 2011. This extends a discouraging downward trend of about 33 percent along with inflation since 2000. Figures for rates for 2012 are not available, but last year's 2011 exit poll asked workers to report their earnings per day. Besides the fact that the majority of the workers said they were underemployed needing up to another month of work, the figures reported showed half the industry's planters are earning less than $22 per hour for at least a ten hour work day. This places them at the very bottom for earnings in the resource sector. If there were planters working as United Steel workers, they would earn around $23 for an eight hour day and much lower production expectations. Mining wages start around $28.00 hour and the oil & gas sector begins around $35.00 per hour.

The WSCA is just now developing a human resource strategy for the silviculture sector thanks to government support through the Labour Market Partnership Program and the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation, but it will be another year before that process can begin to reliably report out on the trends affecting our workforce. It will take just as long to come up with a recruitment and retention strategy for the sector, as well as guidelines and best practices for individual firms. Nevertheless, the anecdotal evidence suggests that getting the job done in 2012 pretty much tapped out the provincial planting capacity. There were no extra planters and in some cases there weren't enough. What may have saved the sector from wider default was the weather and the extension that added a couple of weeks to the spring plant into late June and early July. If we have reached peak capacity now, much depends on what the jet stream serves up next year, an El NiƱo year. Much also depends on whether workers think they are being treated well and paid what its worth to do actual hard work for a living. With the uncertainty around those two factors, there is a risk of a capacity crunch in 2013. 

Do the survey.

The volunteer working group in charge of developing a human resource strategy for the silviculture sector has sent out its annual survey for workers and employers. Please circulate the survey to your employees and urge them to answer the confidential poll. We also want to gauge the mood of the employers in the sector too and have added a special section. You can help by getting yourself and your workers to go to

The results of the survey will be made available after this year.   
Please help us spread the word by circulating this email to as many people as possible, including other contractors, coworkers, employees, suppliers, any other interested parties, etc.   

Western Silvicultural Contractors' Association
#720 - 999 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC   V5Z 1K5
Tel: (604) 736-8660      Fax: (604) 738-4080


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Lumber Prices Expected to Rise in 2013 and 2014

Just out today, a news release with a forecast of higher lumber prices due to a rise in US housing starts.  

Good news for Canadians working in the forest industry, and their families who depend on those jobs.

MONTREAL - North American lumber prices are set to increase further in the coming couple of years as the U.S. housing market continues to strengthen from years of weakness, a new CIBC report predicts.
Spot prices for Western SPF softwood lumber made from spruce, pine and fir trees have steadily increased this year, rising 24 per cent since January to US $310 per thousand board feet in August.
That's nearly 41 per cent higher than the US $220 price set two years ago, when the U.S. house-building industry was still suffering from years of over-heated construction activity and a collapse in the mortgage lending industry.
Analyst Mark Kennedy says the futures market is suggesting lumber prices will soften over the next two to three months before strengthening early next year as the fundamentals of the U.S. market improve despite some recent mixed signals.
U.S. home building slipped in July after a strong improvement in June, but new permits rose to their highest level in four years.
Housing starts in the United States decreased 1.1 per cent from June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 746,000. However, new construction was up 21.5 per cent from a year ago and permits were 29.5 per cent higher.
The increases came as inventories of unsold new homes in the United States hit a 50-year low, home prices appear to have bottomed, and housing affordability is near a record high due to low interest rates.
Kennedy estimates that U.S. housing starts will reach 900,000 next year and just over one million in 2014.
At that level, he estimates lumbers price will reach about US $340 per thousand board feet by the first quarter. The price should average above US $400 if starts reach 1.4 million units per year.
That's good news for lumber producers in Canada that export to the United States and workers who have faced several years of challenges, Kennedy said.
Among the companies expected to benefit are Canfor Corp. (TSX:CFP), West Fraser Timber Co. (TSX:WFT), International Forest Products Ltd. (TSX:IFP.A), Conifex Timber Inc. (TSXV:CFF) and Western Forest Products Inc. (TSX:WEF), he wrote in a report.
Canada has shipped some 4.5 billion board feet of lumber to the U.S. in the first half of the year, up 6.5 per cent from the same period in 2011.