Ontario Business Trends

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There were the usual slowdowns due to vacation periods and the July 1st Canada Day celebrations over the early part of summer. The province started to ease restrictions and businesses reopened to return to a more normal way of life. With vaccines being delivered and inoculation numbers rising, people were more hopeful of seeing an end to the COVID-19 pandemic in the near future. Contacts in the industry felt cautiously optimistic for a better fall season. Contacts noted that there were more logs available to sawmills, but production had not increased significantly from spring through summer. There is still the struggle of getting qualified workers in the industry to boost production and meet demand. Some contacts noted that kiln-dried sales are good, while green sales were fair to good. Most species are performing well. There is still a high demand for Hard and Soft Maple, Walnut and White Oak, with demand outpacing production. It was noted that the industrial markets were strong.

Ash is selling well on international and domestic markets, but sales have abated since the beginning of the year. Wholesalers note that their kiln-dried inventories are thin, with higher prices being noted. Green Ash production is low, they add. Consumers are still demanding Hard and Soft Maple, so the push is to produce as much of these two species as possible. Aspen production has not seen a rise in demand, even though there was ample supply of this species. However, it is reported there is demand for it in the traditional and new markets.  

Basswood production has also seen a slowdown due to sawmilling of other species such as Hard and Soft Maple. However, with warm weather conditions, whitewood log decks must be renewed on a regular basis, which includes Basswood. Volumes are low for this species, with demand outpacing supply. Kiln-dried Basswood markets are good with inventories thin for most grades and thicknesses. Business is best for the upper grades, with prices seeing some gains.

Demand for Birch relies heavily on Canadian and U.S. demand, and with both countries experiencing a strong housing market there is a need for more of this species. Secondary manufacturers and wholesalers are in need of more Birch. As a result, prices are on the rise. Contacts note that premium color stock is doing better than unselected or off-color material. 

Sawmills are processing as much Hard Maple as possible, and it is being absorbed on the markets, but supplies are not sufficient to meet demand. Prices continue to rise for most grades and thicknesses, due to it being buoyed by strong U.S. and Canadian housing and renovation markets. This has boosted sales of Hardwood finished goods. Prices are rising for kiln-dried stocks due to high demand and limited availability. The same is said for Soft Maple: sawmills are processing this species quickly to prevent stain and to meet demand, but supplies are not satisfying market needs. Competition is pushing prices higher. 

Demand is readily absorbing Red Oak production. Kiln-dried inventories haven’t significantly increased, but some thicknesses are more readily available, and there are price variations. On the other hand, competition for White Oak logs is intense and prices have increased substantially. Log decks are thin say sawmillers, with green lumber production being low. Due to strong demand, prices are at record highs. Kiln-dried markets for this species are also strong, with low inventories. 

The Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry and MPP for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke on behalf of Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, and joined by Mike Harris, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry and MPP for Kitchener-Conestoga, announced details of a partnership with the Wood Manufacturing Council (WMC) to help people in Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) prepare for good jobs in the wood manufacturing sector. With an investment of $885,000, the WMC leads an innovative skills training project with local employers to help 72 workers and job seekers gain the skills and work experience needed by wood manufacturing partners in these regions.

“This partnership with our government provides opportunities for people and businesses in Ontario,” said Minister Yakabuski. “Ontario’s forestry sector continues to thrive with support from Ontario’s Forest Sector Strategy, and employers need to hire and train skilled employees to keep up with demand for their products.”

Funded through SkillsAdvance Ontario, the program will train six trainee cohorts, with two cohorts each taking place in Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo, and the GTA. The in-person training includes an introduction to hand tools, power tools, and woodworking machinery as well as safety rules and safety training. WMC will also develop a curriculum for the mass timber industry, using the existing Wood Employee Readiness Curriculum (WERC). The first training started in Ottawa this past June.

Ontario’s 2021 Budget, Ontario’s Action Plan: Protecting People’s Health and Our Economy, includes measures to help workers and families recover from COVID-19 by investing an additional $614.3 million during 2020–21 and 2021–22 for employment and training supports, and proposing the new Ontario Jobs Training Tax Credit, a one-time credit that would provide up to $2,000 for workers who enroll in an eligible course or training program in 2021.

By Miller Wood Trade Publications

The premier online information source for the forest products industry since 1927.

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