UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The development of the Japanese market for Pacific Northwest lumber : a historical survey Shand, Eden Arthur


This thesis describes the manner in which the Japanese market for Pacific Northwest lumber grew over the last one hundred years. The description attempts to explain why British Columbia, which for many years was the under-dog in the Japanese market, suddenly and irrevocably took the lead from Washington and Oregon in 1961. The answer seemed to lie in B.C.'s marketing philosophy - the international marketing orientation - which geared her in practical terms for the export markets of the world generally and for Japan particularly. Manifestations of this marketing philosophy were first seen around 1934 when H.R. MacMillan, in spite of an ample and virtually guaranteed U.K. market, recognized the importance of keeping one foot in relatively slack markets like Japan. It was a question of increasing B.C.'s market share. Yet it took more than twenty-five years for the Province to bear the fruits of this orientation. There were good reasons for this time lag. Prior to 1961, except for a fifteen year period after the Great Japanese earthquake of 1923, Japan was a modest purchaser of Pacific Northwest lumber. The greater part of these lumber shipments were of large Douglas fir squares which Washington and Oregon were in a better position to supply. In the latter part of the decade of the 1950's, however, when large-sized Douglas fir was needed for the developing Pacific Northwest plywood industry, and when the booming Japanese economy needed more timber, the Japanese had to look for an alternative species. Hemlock was their choice and both British Columbia and the American Northwest had ample supplies of these resources. But whereas B.C., being geared to the export market, could economically cut unusual Japanese specifications, the American Northwest being geared to their domestic market could not. The Japanese bought U.S. logs instead of lumber for cutting to their requirements at home. Thus, by supplying Japan with their large demand for hemlock baby squares, B.C. surpassed Washington and Oregon. In recent retaliation, the Americans have passed legislation restricting the export of logs from their territory with the hope that the Japanese would buy more lumber from them. But this writer predicts that unless the lumbermen of the American Northwest adopt the international marketing orientation expounded upon in this thesis and gear themselves for the export market, then no amount of log export legislation can guarantee them their former ascendancy in the Japanese lumber market.

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