Alberta shipped a record $5.6 billion in forest products in 2016. Of that amount, $2.9 billion went to exports. In March 2017, the benchmark price (which is based on the average of 15 key framing lumber prices) reached near record levels at $580 per thousand board feet. The one-year moratorium after the Canada-U.S. Softwood Lumber Agreement expired in October 2015 helped. It allowed Alberta lumber producers to have unrestricted access to U.S. markets. These gains occurred even though the Fort McMurray wildfires disrupted operations such as those at Northlands Forest Products for a month.
The digital world has lowered the demand for newsprint. However, a 40% increase in e-commerce sales in Canada in 2016 is increasing the demand for the paperboard that is used to deliver goods directly to consumers. An increasing demand for sanitary products from emerging markets has also helped the industry.
Closures and mergers in the industry have resulted in larger companies that can take advantage of greater economies of scale. When combined with the industry’s investment in machinery at the beginning of the decade, this has meant greater productivity with fewer employees.