Top global lumber companies’ production recorded a net decline in 2019. The same 15 companies that made the list in 2018 did so again in 2019, with only a half-dozen firms increasing their output (and most with minor increases). Today, amid the fallout from COVID-19, all bets are off about many lumber companies’ ability to make the list in 2020.
For the global top 15 sawmill companies, the average decrease in production was 2.5%; this compares to gains in each of the previous five years. The list is based on companies with reported softwood lumber output that exceeds one billion board feet (bf) on a nominal basis (or, for mills outside North America, more than ~2.3 million m3 on a net count basis). Eleven of the companies that have made the list each year since 2005 did so again in 2019.
The collective 2019 output of these 15 firms was 35.7 billion bf nominal (60.6 million m3 net), a decrease of 900 million bf (-2.5%) from 2018’s 36.6 billion bf. The collective global market share of the group of firms was nearly 16% (a slight drop from 2018).
Four of the top 10 largest global sawmilling firms are based in B.C.: West Fraser, Canfor, Interfor and Tolko (now with two U.S. South joint venture mills). The other firm with sawmills in both the U.S. and Canada is Weyerhaeuser. Together, these five companies accounted for 18.7 billion bf of production (31.5% of total North America lumber output) at 102 mills (38 in Canada and 64 in the U.S.); these volumes represented 9% of global lumber output.
The Top 5 Companies
West Fraser remained the largest global softwood lumber producer in 2019 for the twelfth straight year. Total lumber output for the year was 5.9 billion bf, a significant decline of 695 million bf from 2018. One B.C. mill was closed in 2019.
In second place was Canfor, with 4.8 billion bf of output (down 3.6% from 2018, due mainly to curtailments caused by high log costs in B.C. and low prices during most of last year). The addition of production at Vida, and Elliott Sawmilling for parts of the year were not enough to offset its major output declines in North America (total drop of 768 million bf).
Weyerhaeuser stayed in third position with 4.7 billion bf, an increase of 164 million bf from 2018. Vancouver-based Interfor retained fourth spot with production of 2.7 billion bf (+0.4% from 2018).
Rounding out the top 5 was privately held Georgia-Pacific remained in fifth spot with output of ~2.6 billion bf at 16 sawmills.