British Columbia’s foresters have made a long-awaited breakthrough in China by convincing the country of the merits of wood.
The effort has sent the value of B.C. lumber exports surging beyond expectations.
China is a bright spot in what remains a troubled industry. B.C. lumber sales to mainland China doubled in 2010 to $668-million, exceeding Japan for the first time. But Japan is still an extremely weak market while the United States – the traditional No. 1 market for B.C. wood – is mired in a housing recession.
The new foothold in China is the longer-term salve for British Columbia, which faces a seemingly permanently reduced market in Japan and an extended, and slow, recovery in the United States.
British Columbia, in a joint effort by industry and government, has scored success in China in wooden roof trusses for concrete apartment buildings, as well as early signs of momentum for small wood-framed apartment buildings.
The country primarily builds with concrete and steel and had previously only imported cheap low-grade wood for concrete construction and manufacturing. Such uses, including furniture manufacturing, are still big.
Canada has worked to inculcate wood in China’s culture, from the education of carpenters to negotiating with government to change building codes. It is paying off.