While logging is at a standstill, several forestry companies are helping to curb forest fires. If the crisis continues, it could have repercussions on the production of lumber and pulp and paper.
“Last Wednesday, when the Chapais fire started, our forest operations teams put aside everything they were doing to support the fight led by SOPFEU, reports Frédéric Verreault, executive director of corporate development at Chantiers Chibougamau. We have made available all of the company’s resources, our lodging units, our laundry services, our meal services, our forestry operators and engineers, our forestry machinery. »
The Nord-du-Québec company has ceased all regular cutting activities. However, it contributes to the execution of a mechanized line, a deforested corridor which serves to stop the spread of fire.
Its pulp and paper mill in Lebel-sur-Quévillon was completely shut down due to the evacuation of the municipality. She was grazed by a fire, less than 500 meters away.
At Resolute Forest Products, we also point out that all harvesting operations are suspended and that the situation is being closely monitored. “We are trying to repatriate machinery that could help fight the fires. Our sawing operations could also be interrupted if the wood supply were to run out,” says Louis Bouchard, director of public affairs and government relations for the company.
“I don’t want to speculate in the medium term, but since the pulp and paper industry is closely linked to the lumber industry, if the chips were to run out, there could be impacts on our pulp and paper production. as well,” he added.
Equipment and wood burned
In the wake of an industrial tour in the Outaouais, Laval University professor Luc Lebel says he has seen immediate consequences for businesses.
“Equipment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars burned. These are SMEs that will have to buy a fleet,” reports this researcher specializing in forestry operations. Stocks of cut wood also went up in smoke.
“The forest industry is used to fires, it’s nothing new, but the scale is unprecedented,” says Mr. Lebel.
Daniel Beaudoin, also a forestry professor at Laval University, is worried about these forestry contractors, subcontractors of major manufacturers. “They often have only one client, and they no longer have any income, since they are paid for each meter of cut wood they put on the roadside,” he says.
Mr. Beaudoin points out that sawmills generally have fairly low wood reserves at the start of the summer. Without supplies, some may have to partially or completely stop their activities in a few weeks.
When companies can return to the forest, the complex forest planning will have to be redone. For reasons of sustainable development, they will have the obligation to quickly recover part of what has burned, underline the two experts. The wood delivered will also be of lower quality, in addition to being more difficult and more expensive to harvest, which could lead to yield losses.
The limited wood supply, not only in Quebec, but also in other Canadian provinces, could lead to shortages and put upward pressure on prices, believes Mr. Lebel. Vincent Miville, director general of the Federation of Quebec Forest Producers, recalls that the price of lumber has depreciated compared to the pandemic years, as the demand for building materials is down. If prices go back up, it will probably only be for a few weeks or months, he predicts.
According to Mr. Miville, the scale of these fires is leading to “fundamental reflection” among private landowners, who will have to “adopt strategies to make their forests more resilient to climate events”.