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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The economics of small scale sawmilling in the Peace River region of B.C. Beaumont, Rodney William


Public concern about increasing firm sizes and industrial concentration levels, particularly in the B.C. forest industry, has been mounting over the past decade. The diminished role of the independent, small-scale enterprise has been criticized, focusing interest on the available opportunities for small scale timber and lumber production. However, several hundred small sawmilling operations have been active in the B.C. Interior for many years. To explore the reasons for this diversity in firm sizes, the economies of scale influencing present plant and firm sizes, and the development of those economies, are assessed for the Interior sawmilling industry. The economies faced by the smallest firms are also examined, and compared to those of the largest firms. Small scale sawmilling is closely associated with farming operations in B.C., and is concentrated in those regions supporting a combination of farm and timber land. The detailed study of small scale, portable sawmilling in the Peace River region assesses the structure, conduct, and economic performance of that industry to determine the economic efficiency of firms and the constraints faced by the industry. The small firms competitively produce lumber for an entirely local market, and constitute a unique industry operating on the fringe of the large scale sawmilling industry. The industry contributes only a very small portion of the region's total income; however, many of the sawmilling operations supplement farm revenues, raising them to a profitable level. The only severe threat to industry survival within the next 10 to 15 years is the limited availability, to the firms, of the region's Crown owned timber resource. To allow the industry to operate competitively in the future, small volumes of Crown timber must be offered for sale. Also evident among the existing sawmill owners and interested individuals is a demand for the opportunity to practice long term, private timber production. While forested Crown land suitable to small scale tree farming is available in the region and throughout the province, further study is necessary to define the extent of the demand and to outline the property rights essential to maintaining a competitive industry.

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