COLUMN: Forestry at the heart of B.C.’s export economy

Jock Finlayson is the exectuive vice president and chief policy officer of the Business Council of BC

The B.C. forest industry is grappling with challenging market conditions and recent provincial government actions that have increased costs and made it harder to do business. That is worrisome. Forestry is a sustainable, high-wage industry that is the mainstay of many regional economies across B.C. – particularly outside of the lower mainland and Greater Victoria.

The activities that take place across all segments of the forest products sector combined account for $13 billion of B.C.’s economic output (GDP), provide direct employment for up to 60,000 British Columbians, and pay $4 billion a year in taxes, royalties and fees to various levels of government. Another 70,000-80,000 jobs also depend on forestry because of the industry’s extensive linkages with other sectors of the B.C. economy. According to a new economic study, in five of seven B.C. regions forestry supports between 8 per cent and 22 per cent of all jobs. By any measure, the industry packs a substantial economic punch.

Below, I discuss one important way forestry is critical to our economy: its outsized place in B.C.’s exports.

British Columbia is a small market that relies on trade for its economic well-being. Exports of goods and services amount to about one-third of the province’s GDP. These exports furnish the economic wherewithal that enables our households, businesses and public institutions to pay for imports of a wide array of goods and services – everything from vehicles, medical devices, and pharmaceuticals to IT equipment, consumer electronic products, digital services, clothing, and many foodstuffs.

As a small jurisdiction, B.C. needs to pay close attention to the performance and prospects of its “traded industry clusters.” These industries produce goods and services for sale outside of the province – globally, and across the country. Traded industries are vital to the province’s overall prosperity.

Today, forestry ranks as B.C.’s biggest traded industry, and by a significant margin.

The figure below shows the average share of forest products in B.C.’s total merchandise exports, measured on a three-year rolling basis starting in 2009 and ending in 2017. Despite the province’s increasingly diversified economy, forestry continues to loom large as a source of exports, generating 31-35 per cent of the earnings that B.C. reaps from selling goods abroad every year. The annual figures bounce around based on trends in commodity markets, the exchange rate, and foreign demand for B.C. exports.

It may surprise some readers to discover that forestry’s contribution to B.C.’s merchandise exports hasn’t fallen, even though other industries – e.g., energy, agriculture, and high technology – have gained a higher profile. Indeed, if anything, forestry’s place in B.C.’s merchandise export mix has expanded slightly since 2009.

The accompanying table provides more detail on B.C.’s forestry-based exports as of 2017. Lumber and pulp are the top export categories, followed by logs, panel products and paper.

The information summarized above underscores two key points.

First, forestry is still the province’s leading industry, based on the value of exports. Second, forestry’s place within B.C.’s export portfolio has not diminished by much over the past decade, contrary to what many people may believe.

Jock Finlayson is executive vice president and chief policy officer of the Business Council of British Columbia

www.facebook.com

 

Just Posted

Contempt charge against Balfour logging protesters dropped on technicality

A B.C. Supreme Court justice ruled Cooper Creek Cedar failed to file a contempt application

Developer offers details for former Kerr Apartment site

Wayne Woodward is planning a five-storey building on Victoria Street

Jail time for driver involved in Castlegar road rampage

Sean Patrick Byrne caused havoc on Castlegar roads in November

UPDATED: Meth possession charges considered after car rolls off Nelson highway

Vehicle landed beside the Rosemont pedestrian trail

Kootenay Lake’s first marine waste pump-out opens

Sewage facility is located at the Prestige marina

Disney Plus to launch in Canada in November

Analysts say latest streaming service may escalate cord cutting

Okanagan bus driver assaulted for asking patron not to smoke

59-year-old in hospital with non-life threatening injuries

B.C. sets rules for ride hailing, same minimum fee as taxis

Larger operating areas seen as threat by cab companies

Two hiking families team up to extinguish fire in B.C. backcountry

Children and their parents worked for three hours to ensure safety of the popular hiking region

Vancouver man arrested after pregnant woman’s SUV stolen, then crashed

Police are recommending charges against a 22-year-old Vancouver man

Elections Canada to assess ‘partisan’ climate change rhetoric case by case

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has said climate change is not an emergency nor caused by human

Unseasonable snow forces campers out of northeastern B.C. provincial park

Storm brought as much as 35 centimetres of snow to the Fort Nelson, Muncho Lake Park-Stone Mountain Park

B.C. log export rules killing us, northwest harvester says

NorthPac Forestry says Skeena Sawmills has plenty of timber

Most Read