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An analysis of British Columbia lumber shipments 1947-1957 Francis, Robert John

Abstract

The conversion of timber reserves into lumber is the largest industrial enterprise in British Columbia. The importance of this activity to the economy depends on a large provincial resource base and the ability to sell the processed goods to domestic and world markets. The objective of this study is to examine the dynamic nature of the, distribution and trends in Coast and Interior lumber trade (1947-1957) as they relate to the inter and intra-action or physical and human conditions in the source areas and markets. Even though Coast extraction of wood exceeds the allowable annual cut at the present level of exploitation and the Interior forests are being undercut, Crown control has been insufficient to effectively regulate the distribution of logging. Therefore, it was the, relative physical and economic accessibility of Interior timber, private cognizance of the limited size of Coast reserves, and Coast interest in the production of more highly processed wood commodities that resulted in the faster expansion of Interior sawmilling. In the future this trend will probably continue, since the full level of allowable annual, exploitation permits a much larger volume of extraction in the Interior. The distribution of sawmilling and their size are related to: (1) type and availability of transportation facilities, (2.) amenities available from service centers, and (3) duration of lumber processing. Provincial trade expanded fairly steadily to a peak in 1956 with the growth of world population and economic recovery after World War II, but this trend was modified by conditions in specific markets and by maritime freight rates. Interior shipments experienced this same increase as they became a more important, but not the major, source of British Columbia lumber. In contrast Coast shipments tended to fluctuate markedly. The major markets for provincial lumber were, respectively Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Other countries (primarily the Union of South Africa and Australia). The Coast sawmills have a large water-borne trade with overseas markets and the United States' Atlantic ports, whereas the Interior, which depends on rail transport, sells almost exclusively to North America. British Columbia had difficulty in selling to the United Kingdom because of the direct competition for most lumber specifications with the closer sources in Sweden, Finland, and the Soviet Union. The volume of provincial shipments fluctuated with the level of British housing construction, import restrictions, and the release of stockpiled lumber. The major exporter to the Union of South Africa and Australia was British Columbia, but the United States and the Scandinavian countries, with the addition of New Zealand in the Australian market only, were also important suppliers. In both consuming areas the province has an advantage as the result of the type and size of lumber it can provide. The ability of South Africa and Australia to undertake a forestation program, with the expectation of a high degree of success, constitutes the greatest future threat to the British Columbia sawmills. If the consumers in Australia Increasingly accept the inferior grade of lumber domestically produced from radiata pine, a larger demand may also develop for the import of this commodity from New Zealand. Both of these changes would reduce the demand for British Columbia lumber. The Coast contributed the largest volume to the increased trade with the United States (1947-1957), but sales from this source have not expanded as rapidly or as steadily as those from the Interior. For both source areas the United States markets, in order of decreasing importance, are the Interior, the Atlantic ports, and the Pacific ports. The Coast Is the major supplier of all but the interior United States market where, because of its shorter rail connections, Interior British Columbia became the main source. The relative importance to British Columbia producers of these three market areas, and also the Canadian provincial markets, can be partially explained in terms of their alternate sources of supply, proximity, population, timber reserves, and lumber production. With its pronounced expansion of sales to Western Canada, the Interior became the major provincial shipper to the domestic market. Coast manufacturers have lost in relative importance, because they cannot compete on the unstable lumber market which has been created by Interior marketing practices. The clears and high quality, large dimensional British Columbia lumber sold domestically come mainly from the Coast, whereas common lumber comes primarily from the Interior. The relative size of the Canadian markets in decreasing order, British Columbia, Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Quebec, the Atlantic Provinces and the Territories. The Importance of consumer proximity to the source of production is clearly pointed out in Canada where the lumber output of each province provides the major source of competition to outside sources of supply. The trends and distribution of British Columbia lumber trade were not static, because the evaluation of supply and demand by both producers and consumers is continually changing.

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