Pulp and paper corporation Canfor says it will temporarily halt operations at its B.C. mills, citing low lumber prices and the high cost of fibre.

B.C. sawmills, except for the WynnWood mill near Creston, will be closed for one week starting April 29. Two of the mills will also be shut down for a second week in May.

Canfor operates 13 sawmills in British Columbia with most of them located in the province’s Interior.

The closures will affect over 2,000 hourly employees.

In an email, the company’s director of corporate communications, Michelle Ward, said the company regrets the impact the temporarily closures will have on employees, their families and the affected communities.

The mayor of the District of Clearwater says the shutdown will be difficult for locals who work at the Vavenby sawmill, especially because the mill already closed for six weeks earlier this year.

“If we have a couple more [weeks] then it’s going to get a little tough for people,” said Merlin Blackwell.

“A lot of the employees will be relatively okay with [Employment Insurance], but a lot of the contractors don’t have that option,”

Harry Nelson, associate professor at University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Forestry, says falling demand from the U.S. is driving down the price of lumber.

“It’s kind of been a double whammy,” Nelson said. “The price of their main product has dropped but the costs have gone up because harvest levels have been dropping for a whole host of reasons.”

Nelson says Canfor is likely taking a timeout in the hopes supply will shrink and prices will begin to recover.

He predicts the mills will be closed anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, but acknowledges concerns about mills permanently shutting down.

“We’ve got more capacity out there than there’s timber to support it currently and so, might some of the market curtailment turn into eventual basically sawmill closures?”

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