BC’s Minister of Forests Bruce Ralston, accompanied by several CEOs of the province’s leading forestry companies and indigenous leaders, led the five-day delegation in Japan to highlight the innovative aspects of BC’s wood products.
The five-day venture involved various meetings with Japanese customers to emphasize the quality of products delivered by BC’s forestry sector.
According to Ralston, the province sold $1.4 billion worth of forestry products to Japan in 2022, adding they have been a top customer for over 100 years.
“We first started selling lumber to Japan after the Kanto earthquake in 1923. So, we’ve been at it for a while, and we have strong connections,” says Ralston. “We were there to talk about and talk to our customers to assure them we are in it for the long haul and want to continue delivering steady, reliable products to Japan.”
The trip was undertaken to further strengthen BC forestry products in the Japanese market. Ralston explains there is more competition than in previous years with the European market, and Japan’s efforts to use domestic products.
“They have a species that’s a little bit like cedar, although not as high quality, called suki, which they are trying to develop and use for wood construction in Japan as well,” he says. “It’s always good to meet with your customers and impress upon them your continued interest in them.
“It’s like any other relationship; you have to nurture it and value it. Otherwise, people feel neglected, and they might fade away and then head somewhere else.”
The quality of BC’s forestry products is highly appreciated by Japanese customers, according to Ralston. He explained that BC’s reputation in Japan is of very high quality, and historically the Japanese have been willing to pay accordingly for the best quality products.
“The Japanese have a real aesthetic appreciation of the beauty of wood and also the strength and flexibility of British Columbia’s timber. Other forest jurisdictions don’t have the same quality of product, and there are emerging opportunities there because of that,” he says.
Ralston says he feels that the trip was a success and added the ministry remains dedicated to building a sustainable forest industry.
“The forest industry and its products are an essential part of British Columbia, of our identity, and we are building a sustainable forest. We’ve made several changes in the regulation of our forests that I think are what the public has been asking for.”