Don’t Count Us Out-The Growing Future of Canada’s Forest Products Industry

Did you know that Canadian forest products export are up 10% this year, that forest products are Canada’s number one export to Asia and the industry makes up 12% of Canada’s manufacturing GDP?

These positive facts cast a different light than recent stories suggesting that the Canadian forest industry is virtually dying especially the pulp and paper sector.

It certainly is true that the industry was devastated during the recent recession and that the pulp and paper sector was especially hard hit because of the rise of electronic media.

However things are now looking up as the industry has transformed and found its footing once again.

For example industry employment numbers have been  stable since 2010, and in the period 2010-2012, the industry hired 8,000 employees.  Half of this was a result of retiring workers but the other half were new hires.  On any given day about 500 jobs are open in the forest products sector.  The industry has also estimated, based on figures from a Conference Board study for the Forest Products Sector Council, that forest companies will need to recruit 60,000 new employees by the end of the decade.

Exports are going up.  In fact, exports to China have increased 275% over the past decade.  Overall Canada is the world’s second largest forest product exporter.   And the forest products industry has the second largest trade balance of any industry in Canada next to oil and gas.

There is also a cautious optimism about the future. The focus is on innovation as the engine of growth and maximizing the value from wood fibre. Canada has been a global leader in the research and development of innovations from wood including cellulose nano-crystals.  Wood fibre is now being used in car parts, clothing, chemicals, cosmetics and more.  As a bonus, many of these products, sourced from a renewable resource, will be replacing products made from more carbon intensive materials.

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