New Energy villas is a new development in Jiangsu province

B.C. wood moves up China’s value chain

Forest Minister Steve Thomson's annual trade mission visits resort community in Jiangsu province using wood frame construction

When B.C.’s wood products trade mission visited Nanjing, China five years ago, government and industry representatives watched lumber being hauled by labourers with ropes onto the roofs of a vast expanse of concrete apartment buildings.

Trusses were built using hammers and handsaws, to replace thousands of roofs damaged by the deadly 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Builders were pleased with the new method, which replaced angle iron pulled up to the roofs and welded into trusses.

When B.C.’s annual delegation returned to Nanjing this Thanksgiving weekend for its annual Asia sales trip, Forests Minister Steve Thomson said the roof reconstruction work continues. But now wood construction has become more sophisticated in Jiangsu Province, a centre of electronics and other industries whose gross domestic product is half as much as all of Canada.

“They’re doing residential properties, they’re also doing recreational properties, the villas, planned communities,” Thomson said in a phone interview from Nanjing Oct. 11.

Thomson also met with executives of Sinar Mas, the Indonesian conglomerate that has invested heavily in B.C.’s wood pulp industry through its Richmond-based subsidiary Paper Excellence.

The B.C. delegation toured the world’s largest paper mill, which uses all of the production from Mackenzie Pulp in northern B.C. and most of Howe Sound Pulp and Paper. Paper Excellence also owns the pulp mill in Skookumchuck in the Kootenays, and this spring it purchased the former Tembec pulp mill in Chetwynd that has been shut down since 2012.

The annual lumber trade mission is required by B.C. legislation. Thomson said the next stop in Beijing is for his first meetings with national-level Chinese officials, before the group heads to Tokyo and Seoul, South Korea.

Lumber purchases to China have risen steadily in the past decade, with sales surpassing the U.S. for the first time in 2011.