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Canfor curtailing Intercontinental Pulp

Downtime doubled to four weeks due to lack of fibre but layoffs avoided
Canfor WEB

The Intercontinental Pulp Mill will be shut down for two weeks due to a lack of fibre, Canfor said Monday.

The move follows a two-week annual maintenance shutdown and raises to four weeks the amount of downtime at the Prince George facility and cuts Canfor Pulp's production by about 28,000 tonnes of market kraft pulp.

“Despite strong global pulp markets, we are experiencing a shortfall of economic fibre in British Columbia. The fibre for pulp mills is increasingly constrained due to the impacts of the decreasing allowable annual cut, the end of the mountain pine beetle epidemic, wildfires and reduced sawmill capacity in the province,” said CEO Kevin Edgson.

“We regret the impact of the downtime on our employees and are working to support them through this time.”

In a followup email, Canfor spokesperson Michelle Ward said the company has been trying to keep the employees working with maintenance projects and other work.

"We have been able to avoid any layoffs," Ward said.

It’s one of several pulp or paper mills in B.C. to announce either temporary, indefinite or permanent curtailments in recent months. West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd. also recently announced a 16-day curtailment at its Cariboo Pulp and Paper mill in Quesnel.

Pulp mills everywhere are currently struggling with high fibre costs, but it’s particularly pronounced in B.C. where basic inputs – sawmill waste and pulp logs – are getting harder to come by.

“Strong global demand and record high prices for wood pulp have kept the wood chip trade close to the highest levels ever recorded,” Wood Resources International recently reported.

“A combination of record high prices for market pulp, low pulp inventories, and tight wood fiber supply have pushed costs for pulp logs and wood chips higher in both local currencies and U.S. dollars in the past year.”

As Glacier Media recently reported, it’s estimated that by the end of this year, B.C. pulp production could be down by 13% and paper production down by 58%.

The fibre shortage is getting so severe that two to three pulp mills could shut down by Christmas, according to Joe Nemeth, project manager for the BC Pulp and Paper Coalition.

- with files from Nelson Bennett