West Fraser Timber curtails mills during pandemic

West Fraser scales back

West Fraser Timber is curtailing production in answer to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Effective March 30, all its B.C. sawmills will be shut down for a week, while plywood production at the company's Alberta Plywood and Slave Lake Veneer facilities will be temporarily suspended until at least April 6.

The moves are being made in response to the restrictions on movement, travel, work and trade which the company said are creating uncertainty in the demand for forest products.

The sawmill shutdown will account for 24 million board feet of production while that for the plywood plants will add up to 6.5 million square feet per week.

The steps were announced Wednesday, the same day parliament passed a $107-billion emergency support package.

The Forest Products Association of Canada called for swift implementation of the measures to help laid off workers and distressed companies.

FPAC also called on the federal government to direct provinces to declare the forest products sector a "essential" services.

"The Canadian forest sector supply chain is critical and provides essential items from building materials to pulp for masks and hospital gowns; from products like toilet paper and tissue to pellets and biofuels for heating systems," FPAC said in a statement.

"While the importance of the forest sector value chain has already been recognized in Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick, a confusing patchwork is emerging across the country and some provinces have not yet acted.

"To keep operating, many of our key suppliers are now needing to prove that they are connected to an ‘essential’ or ‘critical’ supply chain.

"Today, if you are a forest products company operating in a province that has not yet made a declaration, it is putting supplier-customer relationships and business at risk.

"Federal direction and clarity is needed immediately."

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