Wood Business

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West Fraser announces COVID-19 response plan, reduces lumber production


March 20, 2020
By West Fraser

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, West Fraser is taking steps to protect its employees and respond to changing market conditions.

The health and safety of our employees, their families and the communities we work in are vitally important. West Fraser has taken a series of actions to ensure a safe and productive working environment. West Fraser has implemented changes to mitigate potential exposure at our worksites, with a focus on thorough cleaning, strict travel limitations, health education and appropriate social and physical distancing at all company sites.

As the demand for forest products has begun to decline, the following changes to operating schedules at West Fraser’s manufacturing operations have also been implemented.

Lumber

Effective March 23, lumber production will be reduced at western Canada sawmills by approximately 18 per cent or 12 million board feet per week, and lumber production at the company’s U.S. South sawmills will be reduced by approximately 24 per cent or 15 million board feet per week. These reductions will be implemented through various means including reduced operating hours, elimination of overtime, elimination of shifts and curtailment of operations. Shipping will be maintained as needed to fulfill order commitments. These temporary reductions are expected to stay in place until at least April 6.

Panels

Effective March 23, plywood production will be temporarily suspended at the company’s Quesnel plywood facility until at least April 6. This will reduce the company’s plywood production by 5,000 msf per week.

Pulp and paper

The scheduled maintenance shut for the company’s jointly-owned Cariboo Pulp and Paper mill in Quesnel, British Columbia has been deferred due to risk stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak. Absences due to COVID-19 policy are increasing at some of the company’s other pulp mills and it is possible that curtailment of operations at these mills may be necessary due to key technical resources not being available.

Capital expenditure

Actions are underway to reduce planned capital spending for 2020 by $75 million through the delay and deferral of projects that had not yet been started. West Fraser is regularly monitoring market conditions and contractor availability. Further potential steps on capital expenditure are being evaluated as the situation unfolds.

The COVID-19 crisis threatens to further impair staff availability and create market volatility. West Fraser is monitoring the situation closely and it is possible that additional reductions in production or operating curtailments may be necessary.