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B.C.’s Forests Minister says almost two dozen mills in the province have had to curtail or shut down operations because of COVID-19.

Speaking on Canadian media, Doug Donaldson says it shows the impact the pandemic is having on an already beleaguered sector of the B.C. economy, which has been deemed to be essential.

“We have somewhere in the neighbourhood of 45 curtailed or closed mills at this point,” he said. “Certainly that number wasn’t that high until we saw COVID-19 impacts, so I think you can draw a pretty straight line between many of those curtailments that we saw in March and in early April and the lack of housing starts in the United States.”

“I mean I think we were around 24 mills that had been curtailed and now we are at 45, and that’s just been in the last six weeks. So yes, COVID has had its impact.”

Donaldson says a decrease in global lumber prices because of COVID-19 is also to blame for the mill curtailments in the province.

He says government made sure that the sector was deemed essential to ensure that forest products would continue to be available. It includes a provision to defer up to three months of stumpage fees for forest companies in the wake of COVID-19, which is expected to equal about $80 million in payments being put off, to help improve liquidity for forest companies.

“They have been able to implement the guidelines recommended through the provincial health officer,” Donaldson said. “I’m certain that the guidelines can be applied so once the market turns around, we can see the industry you know recover quickly.”

Citing COVID-19 concerns, Aspen Planers shut down operations in Merritt, as well as in Savona and Lillooet last month.

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