VANCOUVER — For the first time in British Columbia lumber-trade history, softwood exports to China have surpassed those to the United States. B.C. government trade figures from May show lumber shipments to China were valued at $122 million, compared to $119 million in softwood exports to the United States.
The value in shipments to China for the first five months of this year has been record breaking at 2.8 million cubic metres of timber, double last year’s sales in both volume and value.
Pat Bell, the B.C. Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation, said Chinese trade figures are the result of years of hard work by the provincial government and the lumber industry.
He said everyone involved in the forest industry has known the importance of creating diversity in the softwood market.
“Finally we’ve seen that, we now have a market that equals the importance of the United States.”
Only five years ago, the United States accounted for 70 per cent of B.C.’s softwood exports, Bell said.
Provincial Forests Minister Steve Thomson said the growing trade figure is great news for those who depend on the forest sector in B.C. for jobs and to support their families.
“We continue to see staggering growth in the amount of wood we export to China, so I’m not surprised that in May we shattered another record for lumber imports to the world’s fasted growing economy,” Thomson said in a news release.
The B.C. industry and government moved to diversify the market in 2003 after years of angry softwood trade disputes between the United States and Canada.
Softwood trade restrictions for Canadian lumber, coupled with the plunging demand for lumber in the U.S. housing market forced many Canadian companies to expand their market to China and other parts of Asia, including Japan.