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

Prince Rupert’s ferry issue is a North Coast issue, MLA Rice

Prince Rupert not alone in fight to save ferry to Ketchikan: Alaskan Rep. Ortiz

Brand new vessel for Massett Marine Rescue

The Tagwaal was unveiled to the public Sept. 6

First Nations given max compensation for Ottawa’s child-welfare discrimination

2016 ruling said feds didn’t give same funding for on-reserve kids as was given to off-reserve kids

Council Briefs: Village of Queen Charlotte

Child care and clean-ups on the agenda

Power restored to 120,000 customers after northern B.C. transmission failure

Lightning is suspected to be the cause of the outage, says BC Hydro

On the Wing: Small Yellow Flying Things

by Margo Hearne Distance doesn’t seem to deter migrating birds; they travel… Continue reading

‘This is where the movement is going to start’: Jessica Patrick remembered at memorial march

The march commemorates the one-year anniversary of the 18-year-old’s unsolved death

VIDEO: Vancouver Island mayor details emergency response after fatal bus crash

Sharie Minions says she is ‘appalled’ by condition of road where bus crashed

Federal party leaders address gun violence after weekend shooting near Toronto

One teen was killed and five people injured in the shooting

Conservatives promise tax cut that they say will address Liberal increases

Scheer says the cut would apply to the lowest income bracket

B.C. VIEWS: Cutting wood waste produces some bleeding

Value-added industry slowly grows as big sawmills close

Fewer trees, higher costs blamed for devastating downturn in B.C. forestry

Some say the high cost of logs is the major cause of the industry’s decline in B.C.

Federal food safety watchdog says batch of baby formula recalled

The agency says it’s conducting a food safety investigation

UVic president offers condolences after two students killed in bus crash

‘We also grieve with those closest to these members of our campus community,’ Cassels says

Most Read