Interfor’s sawmills in Grand Forks and Castlegar are scheduled to slow production for two weeks amid pandemic-related market changes. (Jensen Edwards/Grand Forks Gazette)

Interfor cuts production and staff at Grand Forks, Castlegar mills

The curtailment is scheduled to last two weeks, amid pandemic-related market changes

Sawmills in Grand Forks and Castlegar will be cutting production and staff as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Interfor Corporation, which owns three sawmills in the B.C. Interior, announced Wednesday, March 18 it was going to “implement a number of initiatives in order to adjust its business to operating conditions being impacted by COVID-19,” the company’s President and Chief Executive Officer Ian Fillinger said in a release.

In Grand Forks, the temporary curtailment will see approximately 40 employees laid off for the initial two weeks, beginning March 23.

The number of layoffs expected at the company’s Castlegar facility could not be confirmed by the local mill manager, as of March 19.

“There’s so much uncertainty in the market that us and a lot of our competitors are having trouble, not getting our wood to market, but selling it,” said Interfor Grand Forks mill manager Dave Parsons.

Parsons’ sawmill will stop production on Monday, March 23, but he said that logs will continue to be brought in for at least another week. The site’s kilns and planer will also continue.

“We will re-evaluate in the second week but we’re hoping to be up and running again after two weeks, but of course that’s going to have to be depended on what’s going on,” Parsons said.

Across its sites, Interfor expects to reduce production by approximately 35 million board feet per week, according to the release.

In addition to reducing production by approximately 60 per cent, Interfor announced Wednesday that it plans to cut capital spending for this year and 2021 by $140 million. It says it will review its capital spending plans as market conditions evolve.

“We are very focused on ensuring the health and safety of our employees as well as adapting to the evolving market conditions,” said Fillinger. “In addition, Interfor will remain disciplined in its approach to capital deployment as it focuses on retaining a strong capital structure.”

Last June Interfor cut production and gave staff temporary layoffs to help it cope with poor market conditions.

Interfor has three sawmills in the B.C. Interior, in Adams Lake, Grand Forks, and Castlegar. The company has a total annual capacity of approximately 750 million board feet.

READ MORE: COVID-19: It could take 3 years for stock market to recover, says B.C. economist


@jensenedw
Jensen.edwards@grandforksgazette.ca

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