The B.C. government’s new coastal log export policy starts to take effect at the end of July, imposing a new fee structure for logs intended to keep more of them in the province for milling.
The new fees are to be calculated on a case-by-case basis, depending on the harvest cost and value of the timber in each cutblock, Forests Minister Doug Donaldson said Wednesday. The system applies first to new B.C. Timber Sales harvests on the coast, expanding to other coastal timber harvesting in December 2019.
Donaldson said the overall target is to reduce B.C. log exports by 15 per cent over the next two years.
“For whitewood species like hemlock, balsam and spruce, the fee could go from 10 per cent of the Vancouver log market value, which it is now, to a maximum of 50 per cent,” Donaldson said in an interview with Black Press. “That’s an example, but it really depends on the composition of the cutblock.”
Cabinet orders that expire July 31 set the fee in lieu of manufacturing at $1 per cubic metre for the North Coast, Northwest Interior and Nass areas and similar levels for Haida Gwaii and Mid Coast where timber is approved for export under the domestic log surplus test.
“It’s incumbent on us to try to drive more logs to domestic manufacturing,” Donaldson said. “The fee in lieu is a tool to do that, because it tries to address the price difference between what domestic logs are getting on the market and export logs.”
The changes remove an export exemption for western red cedar, a sought-after commodity that commands high prices in Japan and other overseas markets.
Under the new system, cedar logs could only be exported for a cultural use, such as a totem pole or a Japanese or Korean temple.
The current cabinet orders provide blanket log export exemptions put in place earlier to allow logging to carry on in areas where there are no sawmills to ship to. The exemptions are 35 per cent of tenure for the Mid Coast and Haida Gwaii, 20 per cent for North Coast and Northwest Interior and 100 per cent for the Nass timber supply area.
Donaldson said he had reports that some producers were offering logs for sale via the domestic log surplus test, and if they didn’t get the price they wanted, they would then use the exemption to export them. The new system won’t allow that, he said.
The new system is expected to help operations such as Skeena Sawmills in Terrace get enough log supply to operate at full output.