The Daily Gleaner (Fredericton)



The good and bad of the Canadian paper market;

The Canadian pulp and paper industry is in an enviable position in the global market but that status comes at a cost, according to a European Union forestry expert.

Gero Becker, the European Union's forestry representative in Canada, researched and studied the pulp and paper industry in Canada and other countries around the world.

This week Becker addressed forestry officials at the Hugh John Flemming Forestry Centre and toured local mills.

The current vice-dean of forestry and Environmental Sciences at the University of Freiburg in Germany said Canada will remain a major player for high-quality virgin fibre and its products.

"Canada is very large and has a large fibre resource, but it will face stiff global competition," he said.

"The only threat to Canada's status is global competition." Looking ahead, Becker said Canada's future is bright and there's room for everyone.

Becker said there's little, if any domestic control over mill operations.

"That's the case in most pulp producing countries," he said. "The industry is global, and decisions are made by the industry on a global basis,"

Becker said the future will also see mill consolidations, renovations and re- investments.

"The small mills will close and the more efficient and large mills will grow and prosper," he said.

Becker said large markets exist for pulp and paper products.

He said in North America, the per-capita use of paper is about 300 kilograms.

In China and countries in South America, the per -capita use is about 30 kilograms.

"The world won't run short of wood fibre," Becker said. "And there won't be any more windfall profits."

He said paper in Europe is made of 50-per-cent recycled materials.

"In Canada only five per cent of paper products come from recycled materials," he said. "That means recycled paper is able to compete with virgin fibre."

He said paper can only be recycled three or four times before the fibre becomes useless. Quality paper products require virgin fibre.

He said the European demand for quality paper products means a greater demand for virgin-Canadian wood fibre.

Becker said Canada can sharpen its competitive edge by delving more into specialty-paper products.

He said there are two types of wood fibre used in paper production.

The best long fibre comes from softwoods in North America, while short-fibre wood comes from broad-leafed trees.

Becker said most of the competition is in the area of short- fiber wood produced all over the world.

He said other competitive advantages in Canada include low transportation, energy and production costs.

"Mills located close to the ocean have a distinctive advantage because they are closer to U.S. and European markets," he said.