Is Canadian Ownership of U.S. Mills Having an Impact?

by Sean Shields and TJ Jerke


When evaluating today’s North American softwood lumber markets, it’s important to keep the relatively recent shift (since 2015) in the controlling ownership of U.S. mills, particularly in the southern yellow pine region.

According to a 2017 Wood Markets report, four of the largest North American softwood lumber producers have operations in both the U.S. and Canada. These publicly traded companies were positioned in both the top six in Canada and U.S. going into 2017. Below are production numbers for the Canadian companies (the percentage of their U.S. lumber production is shown in parenthesis):

  • West Fraser produced 2.14 bbf in the U.S. and 3.80 bbf in Canada (36%)
  • Canfor produced 1.34 bbf in the U.S. and 3.79 bbf in Canada (26%)
  • Interfor produced 1.61 bbf in the U.S. and 0.88 bbf in Canada (65%)
  • Weyerhaeuser (81%)

To put this in perspective, Total Canadian softwood lumber production in 2016 was a little over 28.5 bbf, while production in the U.S. topped 32.76 bbf (17.3 bbf coming from the U.S. South).

According to analysis by Forest Economic Advisors, with the purchase of Gilman’s six mills in Florida and Georgia in 2017, West Fraser’s production capacity now exceeds seven billion board feet. This means one company now controls a little over ten percent of all lumber production in North America.

Here’s a list of the U.S. mills now owned by Canadian companies:

West Fraser

  • Maplesville, Alabama
  • Opelka, Alabama
  • Huttig, Arkansas
  • Leola, Arkansas
  • Mansfield, Arkansas
  • Russellville, Arkansas
  • McDavid, Florida
  • Perry, Florida
  • Lake Butler, Florida
  • Maxville, Florida
  • Whitehouse, Florida
  • Blackshear, Georgia
  • Firzgerald, Georgia
  • Dudley, Georgia
  • Augusta, Georgia
  • Joyce, Louisiana
  • Armour, North Carolina
  • Seaboard, North Carolina
  • Newberry, South Carolina
  • Henderson, Texas
  • New Boston, Texas


  • Monticello, Arkansas
  • Georgetown, South Carolina
  • Meldrim , Georgia
  • Baxley, Georgia
  • Swainsboro, Georgia
  • Preston, Georgia
  • Eatonton, Georgia
  • Perry, Georgia
  • Thomaston, Georgia
  • Port Angeles, Washington
  • Longview, Washington
  • Sumas, Washington
  • Molalla, Oregon
  • Gilchrist, Oregon


  • Fulton, Alabama
  • Jackson, Alabama
  • Mobile, Alabama
  • El Dorado, Arkansas
  • Moultrie, Georgia
  • Thomasville, Georgia
  • Hermanville, Mississippi
  • Graham , North Carolina
  • Camden, North Carolina
  • Conway, South Carolina
  • Darlington, South Carolina
  • Marion, South Carolina

Western Forest Products

  • Arlington, Washington

To put this shift of ownership in an earnings perspective, Wood Markets 2016 survey of global softwood lumber mills indicated U.S. South mills are by far the most lucrative. Out of 32 countries and/or regions surveyed, “average” U.S. South mills had highest earnings results in 2016 with a 25 percent EBITDA and “top-quartile” mills earnings were off the scale. “As has been the case since 2008,” explained Russ Taylor, Managing Director of FEA-Canada and the principal author of the report, “the major operating advantage for U.S. South mills continues to be the region’s low log-cost structure. With a surplus of timber and not enough sawmills operating in the aftermath of the housing market collapse, delivered log prices remain among the lowest in the world with margins being the highest in the world.”

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