Log export policy review finds imposing more restrictions will not necessarily increase jobs, economic activity, chief forester tells Port Alberni, British Columbia, council

PORT ALBERNI, British Columbia , September 13, 2012 () – B.C. chief forester and assistant deputy minister Dave Peterson said that without log exports, there would be a lot less logging activity going on. With less logging, there would be fewer logs available domestically.

Peterson made the remarks during a presentation at City of Port Alberni council on Monday evening. Council requested more information about the log export program during a meeting with Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson earlier this year.

Peterson started his presentation by saying that the ministry believed more economic value could be generated if the province exported more manufactured wood products than unprocessed logs.

"However, it's not always understood that when domestic log prices are lower than international prices, log exports can actually increase, thereby and increase the amount of wood available to domestic mills, and overall increase the level of economic activity," he said.

Peterson then talked about restricting log exports. According to him, international trade agreements generally allow a country to restrict an unprocessed product in order to keep the product internally to manufacture things for the domestic market.

"In B.C., by far the majority of our wood products is for trade and for external use, so that doesn't align with the general premise of international trade," he said.

In past years, the level of log exports has been roughly equivalent to about 5% of the harvest. In 2011, it climbed to 10% before going down in February 2012.

Peterson said before exporting logs, companies go through an application process. Every application is advertised for sale to domestic mills. Should a mill make an offer at fair market value, which is set by domestic demand and value, the log export is not allowed. "About 96% of the applications for export do not actually receive offers," Peterson said. "What we've seen over the last few months in fact is the level of offers has tapered off quite considerably."

The ministry is currently reviewing the log export policy. During the review, Peterson said one of the things that the ministry has learned is putting more restrictions on log exports will not necessarily lead to more jobs or economic activity in B.C. Coun. Jack McLeman disagreed with Peterson, saying that it was unfair to say there was no market in for logs in B.C. Moreover, he said that when he started working in forestry, mills and companies had more employees.

"No we're being told no export means less work. It doesn't compute. It bothers me that's happening," he said.

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