Okanagan region feeling lumber slowdown
It’s no secret that the lumber industry in B.C. has been struggling this year.
To date, five mills have been closed and dozens of others are having to stretch their downtime.
Okanagan logging contractors are also feeling the pinch.
Dan Eaton is a private logging contractor working above Summerland who has watched his workforce dwindle because of the shrinking industry.
“This time last year we had 120 employees but due to various factors currently we only have 74,” Eaton said.
Eaton says the major problem with the post-pine-beetle era is a lack of inventory — they’re running out of trees to cut down.
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Eaton also says the crisis has been compounded by slumping lumber prices, forest fires, rising stumpage rates and American tariffs.
“As in anything, it all flows downhill, now it’s impacting contractors,” Eaton said.
Eaton says there’s no job security in the industry anymore.
“Often we’ll get, what we call the Friday afternoon calls to let us know if we’re working the next week or not,” he said.
Gorman Brothers Lumber in West Kelowna is also feeling the pinch.
It’s had to adjust its workforce and adapt to the slowdown.
It says the industry knew it was coming but arrived earlier than expected.
“I think with low lumber prices, that has just exacerbated it. We thought it would spread out over the few years, all of sudden it’s happening in one year,” mill manager Nick Arkle said.
Arkle says the company has had to get creative with shifting but added there are no major layoffs planned at the mill.
The Okanagan’s other major lumber producer, Tolko, is also feeling the impact of the slow down, having to take prolonged periods of downtime.
“Unless something changes, there will be many of us who will not be working next year,” Dan Eaton said.
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