Forest Industry Gears Up for the Future
Fredericton, NB – With a forward looking agenda the New Brunswick Forest Product Association (NBFPA) showed optimism for the future during its 2007 SAGM. Over 75 members and industry representatives attended the event held at Kingswood Lodge in the provincial capital.
The agenda for the day-long event included Business New Brunswick Minister Greg Byrne, Elizabeth Beale, President and CEO of the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council and Francis McGuire, Co-Chair of the Self Sufficiency Task Force.
The NBFPA also presented annual awards in five categories – Value-Added, Market Diversification, Environment Partnership, Community Involvement and the Chairman’s Special Award. The Maritime Lumber Bureau was this year’s recipient of the Chairman’s award for leadership and outstanding contribution to the forestry sector in protecting Atlantic Canada’s fair and free trade status with the United States through the Softwood Lumber Agreement.
“Even though we are going through challenging times at the moment, forest products remain a growth industry globally. We believe the future is bright for the forest product industry in New Brunswick,” stated Terry Noble, Chair of the Board of Director for the NBFPA. “Our Association welcomes Premier Graham’s commitment to work with the forest industry in the immediate term to improve competitiveness. We want to recognize Premier Graham’s leadership and the four ministers’ Cabinet Committee on the Forest Industry for their on-going dialogue”, added Noble.
“Sustaining jobs during this very difficult economic climate is a priority in the short term. While nobody can control rising currency and global economic forces, we can work at improving economic fundamentals that will give the forestry sector the solid footing it requires to compete”, concluded Noble.
Premier Graham and the four ministers Cabinet Committee on the Forest Industry have met with industry leaders regularly since last October and as recently as last week, to discuss a course of action to set a strong future for New Brunswick’s forest industry.
“New Brunswick possesses all the elements to build a world leading high tech forest industry cluster: from our universities forestry faculties to a diversified processing sector at the four corners of our province, which includes private woodlot owners, contractors, sawmills, pulp and paper mills and tissue plants, high quality wood fibers, and most importantly a dedicated workforce of over 20,000 New Brunswickers,” stated Mark Arsenault, President of the NBFPA.
The NBFPA has called for increasing forest yield from Crown land, fair market price for wood, red tape reduction, competitive electricity rates and a renewed training agenda. The NBFPA is also calling on the provincial government to adopt the Self Sufficiency Task Force recommendation related to Forestry. The recommendations offer an important opportunity to increase the competitiveness of the forest industry in the global market. If implemented the recommendations will help to maintain jobs now and increase opportunities in the future. More importantly a stable and reasoned approach to forest management with a secure and growing wood supply will result in investment, growth and economic stability for the business of forestry.
Mills that are competitive employ people, purchase wood as well as other goods and services from New Brunswick businesses. The five large pulp and paper mills alone spend more than $350 million a year in New Brunswick purchases. This is in addition to the direct jobs and wages that the forest sector provides in 40 communities.
“Our pulp and paper mills are among the largest energy consumers in the province. The proposed energy rate hikes could have a crippling effect on their very existence. New Brunswick sawmills depend on the sales of their wood chips and residue to the pulp and paper mills. A disruption of this interdependent relationship could be devastating to the industry and risk the closure of even more sawmills. We must ensure our pulp and paper mills, the industry anchors, continue to operate in a competitive environment”, stated Terri Noble.
While recognizing that there is much work to be done to ensure the long term competitiveness of the forestry industry in New Brunswick, The NBFPA and the four Ministers Cabinet Committee have committed to continue the dialogue.