Alberta lumber sector rebounds

Alberta’s lumber industry enjoyed a resurgence in the first quarter of 2013, thanks to improved prices for lumber, panelboard, and pulp and paper.

Alberta’s lumber industry enjoyed a resurgence in the first quarter of 2013, thanks to improved prices for lumber, panelboard, and pulp and paper.

The Alberta Forest Products Association reported on Monday that its members combined to generate $671 million in production value during the three months ended March 31.

That represented an 11 per cent increase from $602 million in the previous quarter, and a 23 per cent jump as compared with $545 million in the first quarter of 2012.

“These prices are the result of some of the best lumber and panelboard markets that we have seen in several years,” said AFPA president and CEO Brady Whittaker in a release.

Contributing to the strong first-quarter numbers was West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd., which operates the West Fraser LVL plant at Rocky Mountain House and Sundre Forest Products.

The company, whose holdings include more than 35 mills across Western Canada and the southern United States, reported previously that it had sales of $863 million and earnings of $67 million to start this year.

By comparison, West Fraser’s sales and earnings for the same period in 2012 were $681 million and a loss of $19 million, respectively.

“We’ve been encouraged by the recovery of the U.S. housing market over the last few quarters,” said Ted Seraphim, West Fraser’s president and CEO. “Our outlook remains cautiously optimistic for all our building products.”

Whittaker noted that prices have moderated during the second quarter of 2013, but the industry is still in “an excellent competitive position.”

On a product-by-product basis, the first-quarter production values of AFPA members was $292 million in the case of lumber, up 55.2 per cent from a year earlier; $100 million for panelboard, up 35.2 per cent; and $279 million when it came to pulp and paper, a 1.3 per cent increase.

The AFPA represents lumber, panelboard, pulp and paper, and secondary manufacturing companies operating in Alberta.

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