Canfor’s Houston sawmill re-opened Jan. 7 following an extended Christmas shutdown. (Black Press file photo)

Canfor back to full production

Company had curtailed operations at all its mills

Canfor has resumed operations at its Houston mill following what turned out to be an extended Christmas shutdown.

The shutdown, termed a curtailment by the company, was in effect at all of its operations at the end of 2018 due to a continuing decline in lumber prices as well as high log costs and a shortage of logs.

Operations resumed Jan. 7 following a Dec. 24-28, 2018 closure which was extended to include Jan. 2 to 4.

“The curtailments have not resulted in any layoffs. We employ approximately 385 people at the Houston mill, including the woodlands team,” said company official Michelle Ward last week.

Canfor’s production output is expected to be reduced by 55 million board feet in the first quarter of 2019 due to the extended curtailment and a reduction in operating hours.

The production cut followed a Canfor announcement it was buying 70 per cent of a privately-owned sawmill company called the VIDA Group, something the company said was to satisfy the demand of its global customers.

“[With] some of that annual allowable cut reductions due to the mountain pine beetle and some of the recent forest fires that we’ve all had to deal with in the past couple of years, the expansion opportunities were certainly limited in B.C., but our customers are growing and we need to keep pace with them,” company president and chief executive officer Don Kayne said at a news conference last year in announcing the purchase.

“This acquisition enables us to secure additional fibre and an operational platform outside of Canada that will allow for the type of growth we need to support our customers.”

Canfor owns 38 production facilities, 21 of which are in B.C.

The Houston facility has been owned by Canfor since 1999 and after an extensive expansion program, was unveiled in 2004 as the world’s largest sawmill with an annual production capacity of 600 million board feet of dimension lumber.

While Canfor has scaled back up, it and other companies continue to bargain with unionized employees in hopes of reaching a new contract.

Members of the United Steel Workers staged a series of rotating strikes throughout the province last year to press for a new contract of wage increases and benefits improvements.

Companies, gathered together in the Council of Northern Interior Forest Employment Relations and the Interior Forest Labour Relations returned to the bargaining table with unionized workers in Kelowna last week.

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