Loggers try to find business after IP

Published 8:56 am Wednesday, August 4, 2010

FRANKLIN—More than nine months after International Paper Co. announced the Franklin paper mill would be closed, logging companies are trying to maintain their businesses by taking wood elsewhere.

Terry Godwin, a forestry consultant with GFER Forestry Consultants in Franklin, said the market for two products IP used to buy — pine pulpwood and hardwood pulpwood — has gone in opposite directions.

“The good news is, on the pine pulpwood side, there still seems to be very good demand for the product,” Godwin said Thursday. “But hardwood pulpwood is a problem now because there are no significant users of hardwood pulpwood in the area.”

Godwin said other mills — Smurfit-Stone in Hopewell, Georgia Pacific in Skippers, KapStone Kraft in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., and Domtar in Plymouth, N.C., — are now main buyers of pine pulpwood in the region.

“Domtar is putting in a new paper machine that will make them the largest pine pulpwood consumer on the East Coast,” Godwin said. “So there is probably going to be a net increase in pine pulpwood usage going forward, even with the Franklin closure.”

Hardwood pulpwood buyers, according to Godwin, are the Rayonier mill at Jarratt and Georgia Pacific in Skippers.

“We’re advising clients with tracts that are real heavy to hardwood pulpwood that they may want to wait until there is a better market,” Godwin said.

Paul Burby, owner of Carolina East Forest Products in Ahoskie, N.C., concurred that pine pulpwood is up and hardwood pulpwood is down.

“There has been a lot of timber on the market lately,” Burby said Thursday. “Pine pulpwood is OK to get rid of, but hardwood pulpwood is very hard to get rid of. A lot of it we are leaving in the woods because (local mills) are on quota. Hardwood pulpwood is not very valuable right this minute. It’s a big headache.”

Burby added that the Domtar expansion in Plymouth was good news for the region.

“They are going to be huge starting in October,” Burby said.

Godwin said the logging industry had been adversely affected since the IP mill closed.

“We have heard of some logging companies that just went out of business or scaled back,” Godwin said. “The capacity of the logging force has definitely been reduced.”

Although there weren’t precise figures on how the logging industry has fared, Godwin said that when the Franklin mill was open, IP purchased about 1,200 truckloads of logs a week.

“Your average logging crew probably hauls 45 loads a week,” Godwin said. “That’s about 25 logging crews. I don’t know that 25 logging crews went out of business, but that’s the kind of capacity that you’re talking out. It’s definitely had an impact, and there’s not been to date an increase in consumption anywhere.”

Burby said his company, which had 100 percent of its business with IP before the closure, is doing fine.

“Our heads are above water,” he said. “I feel fortunate to be in the situation we’re in. We’re getting by and we haven’t laid off anybody. It sounds crazy, but we’ve been really busy here lately.”