Canfor closure extended to at least middle of May

Company says COVID-19 pandemic has reduced lumber sales

Canfor has extended the closure of its Houston mill. (File picture)

Canfor has extended the shutdown of its Houston mill until at least the middle of May, citing an ongoing drop in business forced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Its mill at Isle Pierre east of Vanderhoof will also remain closed but its Plateau mill west of Vanderhoof will re-open May 11, operating for only four days a week.

“We will continue to assess market demand and operating economics, and will make capacity adjustments to align supply with demand as necessary,” said Canfor official Michelle Ward of the continuing closure.

“We know that the challenges presented by the global COVID-19 pandemic are having a very significant impact on our employees, their families and our operating communities, and thank our people for their continued support and commitment.”

Ward said the continued closure in Houston is tied to the pandemic and not related to the drop in the region’s annual allowable cut which took hold this spring.

Canfor’s operations in Chetwynd in the northeast and Elko in the southeast will also re-open May 11 at four days a week but its operations at Polar north of Prince George and Radium in the southeast, as with Houston, will remain closed at least until the middle of May.

The company first announced cuts and closures of its operations March 26 in response to COVID-19 and then extended those closures on April 17 before the further extensions were announced April 30.

The continued closures continue a challenging period for operations of Canfor and other companies in B.C. owing to high logging costs and American softwood tariffs, resulting in a series of rotating closures stretching back for a year and a half at its Houston mill and elsewhere.

On April 22 Canfor reported an operating loss of $88.8 million for January to March, $29.2 million higher than the operating loss of $59.6 million reported for the fourth quarter of 2019.

The increased loss reflected lower lumber sales which were partially offset by improved earnings in the company’s pulp and paper operations.

“While we saw a modest improvement in our results at our lumber and pulp and paper operations in the first quarter, these results were significantly overshadowed by the virus outbreak and the extreme market volatility and major economic turmoil it has caused,” said Canfor president Don Kayne.

“We are focused on maintaining a strong balance sheet and believe we are well-positioned to weather the impacts of the pandemic. We continue to actively assess the ongoing situation and remain prepared to take further action if necessary.”

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