Things are much different at Canfor’s mill here and at the company’s facilities elsewhere at the end of this year compared to the same time period of the past several years.
Burgeoning lumber markets mean a limited downtime of this Christmas holiday period compared to a closure that amounted to seven days, not including statutory holidays, in 2019 and the same closure amount the year before.
This year the mill will be closed Dec. 24, Dec. 25, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. Contractors will also have limited downtime this Christmas season.
Following a lengthy COVID-forced closure which ran from March to early June, the mill has been steadily producing lumber.
That closure mirrored extensive downtime that began in 2018 and which continued the next year and into early 2020 as the company experienced a weakened lumber market and high production costs brought about by a shortage of fibre with the added strain of tariffs for lumber being sold into the American market.
But a shift in how people live and work in the current pandemic has now resulted in more demand for lumber, company CEO Don Kayne commented in a conference call held to discuss Canfor’s third-quarter 2020 earnings.
“Pre-pandemic, for many people, their home was primarily for shelter, for sleeping and eating. Now the home is becoming an office, a school, an entertainment area and a recreation space, in addition to sleeping and eating,” Kayne said on the call.
“We see evidence of this in our strong R&R (repair and remodel) and DIY (do-it-yourself) demand and believe it will continue to evolve and increase in importance. We’re also seeing a shift from urban living to suburban and rural living as people buy more spacious single-family homes and have greater flexibility to work from home.”
He predicted that low interest rates, aging house inventories and strong U.S. housing starts will continue to add to the strong demand for lumber.
Total third-quarter lumber shipments reached 1.37 billion board feet, up 19 per cent over the second quarter. Canfor’s B.C. lumber production accounts for about 44 per cent of its production with four per cent coming from Alberta, 22 per cent in Europe and 30 per cent in the United States.
Canfor is, however, continuing with a permanent closure of its Isle Pierre mill east of Vanderhoof, citing an uneconomic log supply brought on by the pine beetle infestation.