UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The changes in the British market for British Columbia's lumber since 1935 Susanik, Rudolph


The main aspect of this study -was to analyze the changes which occurred in the British market between 1935 and the present. Changes have been manifold and have caused noteworthy fluctuations in the lumber export-import trade between British Columbia and the United Kingdom. The period under review was divided into five parts: pre-war (1936-1939), war (1940-1945), post-war (1946-1949), period after the devaluation of the pound sterling (1950-1952) and the present (1953-1954). Two additional chapters were included, one dealing with the future export trends, and the other treating briefly the historical growth of the lumber industry and its part in the provincial economy. A comparison was included of the mechanical and physical properties of Douglas fir, western hemlock, western red cedar and Sitka spruce and those of European whitewood and redwood. Housing activity in the United Kingdom was treated in detail throughout the thesis. The housing problem has been acute and will remain so in the next decade. Large quantities of softwood lumber are consumed in housing. Although the amount of lumber used per dwelling-unit decreased from 10-1/2 cubic metres to 7-1/2 cubic metres during the war, under the control system, it is expected to reach its former level on the anticipation that larger houses are to be built. During the pre-war period lumber exports from British Columbia increased remarkably, being larger by eightfold in 1936 than in 1931, and by twelvefold in 1939 than in 1931. The substantial housing program, preferential tariffs, trade promotion work and European Timber Exporters1 quota system, as well as British Columbia's lumber prices, contributed to the increased lumber exports to the United Kingdoms. During the war British Columbia's lumber played an important role in Great Britain. Total imports dropped to 25 percent of the prewar level and British Columbia supplied over fifty percent of them. The home production of softwood lumber increased about five times over pre-war level, reaching a peak in 1942 (344,000 standards). Timber control reduced consumption and controlled imports. The post-war reconstruction program in the United Kingdom caused heavy buying in British Columbia. In 1947, 31 percent of total British softwood lumber imports originated in this province. The dollar shortage in 1948 and 1949 forced the United Kingdom to decrease imports from British Columbia. The devaluation of the pound sterling made British Columbia's lumber expensive when comparing it with Russian and Scandinavian lumber. Increased prices and the inability to get lumber from Sweden and Finland after the outbreak of the Korean war, however, caused larger buying (about 400,000 standards) in British Columbia during 1951 and 1952. The present situation has been influenced by the decontrol of softwood lumber consumption in the United Kingdom which took place in November, 1953. The consumption is estimated to reach about 1,400,000 standards in 1954. An amount of 350,000 standards would be a fair share to be shipped from this province annually to the United Kingdom. A notable feature of the present is the willingness of Russia to export lumber (250,000 standards in 1954) to the United Kingdom. The import requirements of Great Britain are estimated to be 1,200,000 standards in I960 representing little more, than half of the pre-war level. They will have to be imported from outside Europe, mainly from Russia and British Columbia. Although this province is a source of high quality lumber, it is recommended that the British market be developed mainly for lower quality lumber by means of reasonable prices, and care in production and shipping. United Kingdom imports from British Columbia will depend upon its dollar purchasing power. This could be increased by two-way trade between Great Britain and Canada. During the period under review proportionally more and more western hemlock was shipped to Great Britain. The ratio between Douglas fir and western hemlock dropped from 1 to 7 of pre-war, to 1 to 4 in wartime and 1 to 2 in 1952. Since there is more mature western hemlock timber than Douglas fir on the coast from where the future exports are expected such a change in favour of western hemlock is an important achievement.

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