Fredericton – The New Brunswick Forest Products Association (NBFPA) welcomed the recent announcement by the province’s Natural Resources Minister Donald Arseneault to assist workers and communities affected by recent mill closures.
New Brunswick’s forest industry has been hit hard in recent months with a strong Canadian dollar, high energy and wood costs, global competition and a slumping US housing market. Many mills in the province are struggling to stay operational and are working tirelessly to improve efficiencies and maintain jobs.
“The announcement clearly illustrates this government’s desire for creative and proactive solutions to the challenges in the forest industry,” stated New Brunswick Forest Products Association (NBFPA) president and CEO Mark Arsenault. “More importantly, the initiative clearly acknowledges and offers help to offset the human and economic hardships that occur when a mill closes its doors.”
According to Arsenault the changes taking place in the forest industry are difficult but not unexpected. In some cases, he believes an exit strategy for less efficient operations may be the only option.
As further evidence to the transformation and consolidation of the provincial forest industry Arsenault reflected back to a more vibrant industry just eight years ago. “In 1999 we had 85 sawmills and 10 pulp and paper mills in New Brunswick compared to 61 sawmills and eight pulp and paper mills operating today. Of the 61 sawmills only 23 are operating at capacity.”
There is, according to industry experts, a widely held belief that New Brunswick’s forest industry will emerge from this crisis with a vastly different look. Larger, more efficient and competitive mills are springing up across the country and there is little doubt New Brunswick will follow suit if it is to remain competitive in the production and manufacturing of wood products.
Arsenault is confident in the future of forestry in New Brunswick. “There are challenging times ahead but we have a solid foundation to build a stronger industry on, including a capable workforce and the potential to grow more trees.”