Lumber prices soared to a record price in September across North America. Along with increased demand, Canada also reported a lumber shortage. Black Press file photo

Lumber prices soared to a record price in September across North America. Along with increased demand, Canada also reported a lumber shortage. Black Press file photo

Lumber hitting record-high prices as supply lags behind demand

B.C.’s forest industry hasn’t been able to keep pace with the COVID-19 building boom

A record demand and reduced supplies have pushed the price of 2x4s to historic highs but the B.C. forest industry is only just beginning to fully take advantage.

The industry has been plagued by an acute lumber shortage, which has been a long time in the making.

Lumber prices across North America have nearly tripled since 2019. Based on a weekly price report by the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources, the price of SPF (spruce, pine, fir) 2×4 lumber – as of Sept. 18 – is at $1,288 per thousand board feet, up from a 2019 average annual of $499.

Skyrocketing prices during the past four or five months have upped the cost of building an average single-family home by $10,000 to $20,000, said Brett Giese, president and owner of Crowne Pacific Development Corp. and Veyron Properties Ltd.

“We were first faced with the challenges of price increases and now, despite record high prices the situation has been compounded by a shortage of supply,” said Giese.

Calling the dilemma a “once-in-a-lifetime phenomena” Joel Neuheimer, vice-president of international trade at Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) said the high price is because of increased demand after the onset of COVID-19.

Home renovation and remodelling projects that people began during lockdown coincided with construction projects that typically begin in spring. This led to increased demand for lumber across North America, including the United States, where B.C. exports 65 per cent of its lumber.

But the industry was not in a position to take advantage. Baggage from previous years – mill closures and curtailments, wildfires, pine beetle infestations, complex stumpage systems and regulatory policies, and a lengthy strike – had limited B.C.’s fibre supply.

There’s also uncertainty about consistent access to fibre which creates a cost burden for the industry, said Susan Yurkovich, president and CEO of the B.C. Council of Forest Industries (COFI).

“We had a 70 million cubic meter annual allowable cut in the Interior in 2007, that’s about 50 now and expected to go down, just under 40 by 2030,” she said.

There was a lot of downtime through 2019 and 2020 as prices dropped and a lot of lumber was coming off the market as mills were shutting down due to high cost structures, said Yurkovich,

It took a while for production to catch up with the demand, resulting in a lumber shortage between June and August. The shortage fed a 15 per cent drop in B.C.’s lumber export value, costing the industry more than $1 billion. Forest ministry statistics from July 2020 showed B.C.’s export value decreased year-to-date in July 2020 ($6.1 billion) compared to July 2019 ($7.5 billion).

The supply chain was further disrupted when production halted as mills in B.C.were shut for two to three weeks after the onset of the pandemic, creating a backlog on lumber orders.

RELATED: B.C. forest industry facing uncertain future as mills close across province

RELATED: Fewer trees, higher costs blamed for devastating downturn in B.C. forestry

The price of fibre in B.C. is extremely high relative to the rest of the Canada making it a high-cost jurisdiction that typically thrives under market conditions when lumber is expensive.

So, despite the lumber shortage, B.C.’s sawmills welcome the price hike as it helps them sustain their overhead. The real problem is when the lumber price goes low, said Yurkovich.

Come winter, lumber prices might go down, said Neuheimer, adding that construction typically slows then and picks up again during spring.

Yurkovich expects the fundamentals of supply and demand to remain fairly good for a while.

“So we might see a high price environment for a while but it is a commodity, so prices go up and down,” she said.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

forestrysoftwood lumber

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada sits ready for use at The Michener Institute in Toronto on December 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)
Lake Babine Nation to receive Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine to arrive within next two weeks for elders 65+

The first of two massive turbines headed from Prince Rupert for the Site C Dam near Fort St. John on Jan 10. (Photo: Supplied by Tasha McKenzie)
Massive turbines begin trek across Northwestern B.C.

Hydro-Electric turbines headed from Prince Rupert to Site C Dam week of Jan. 10 to 14

Zhùr, the ancient wolf pup found mummified in permafrost at Last Chance Creek mine in July 2016. (Government of Yukon/Submitted)
‘Mummy’ wolf pup unearthed in permafrost paints a picture of ice age ancestors

Zhùr is the best preserved and most complete mummy of an ancient wolf found to date.

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
536 COVID cases, 7 deaths reported as B.C. finds its first case of South African variant

Henry said 69,746 people have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine.

Black Press media file
Port McNeill driver tells police he thought the pandemic meant no breathalyzers

Suspect facing criminal charges after breathalyzer readings in excess of 3.5 times the legal limit

Forestry companies in B.C. agree to abide by the cedar protocols based on traditional laws of the First Nation members of the Nanwakolas Council. (Photo courtesy, Nanwakolas Council)
Landmark deal sees B.C. forest firms treat big cedars like a First Nation would

Western Forest Products, Interfor among companies to adapt declaration drafted by Nanwakolas Council

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A northern resident killer whale shows injuries sustained by a collision with a vessel in B.C. waters. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Coast Guard ramps up protections for B.C. whales

First-ever Marine Mammal Desk will enhance cetacean reporting and enforcement

Two toucans sit on tree at an unidentified zoo. (Pixabay.com)
BC SPCA calls for ban on exotic animal trade after 50 parrots, toucans pass through YVR

One toucan was found dead and several others were without food

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Letisha Reimer died Nov. 1, 2016 after being stabbed at Abbotsford Senior Secondary.
No evidence that killer was in ‘psychotic state’ during Abbotsford school stabbing: Crown

Second day of closing arguments at ‘not criminally responsible’ hearing for Gabriel Klein

Most Read