This week, Harry Freeman & Son Mill in Greenfield, N.S. closed its doors, laying off about 150 staff.
“It’s a very tense time. Without some action or some markets here in the very short term, we’re going to see a lot more of this effect,” says Jeff Bishop, Executive Director of Forest Nova Scotia.
The mill, located about 30 minutes outside Bridgewater, has operated since 1830, according to their website.
When Northern Pulp shut down its operations in January of this year, Freeman’s lost its main customer.
“Unfortunately we knew as Northern Pulp went down that there would be effects on our sawmilling sector directly, and this is just one of them,” Bishop tells NEWS 95.7’s The Todd Veinotte Show.
Since then, they’ve been trying to find ways to diversify their market.
“There’s continued work to look for markets on behalf of the government themselves looking at things,” Bishop says. “But also the private companies looking around to see what the possibilities are at a local or a broader domestic level and also internationally.”
But Bishop says the industry has been shrinking in the last number of years, and there are few mills left in Nova Scotia.
“There’s about five or six in the province that produce more than 90 per cent of the softwood lumber or lumber that’s produced in the province,” he says.
Although the Pictou-area pulp mill is planning to start running again after requirements are met, Bishop says that could take years.
“They are still focused on moving forward from the full environmental assessment process that the government said would be necessary,” he explains.
But in the meantime, wood shavings and bark chips are piling up at lumber mills like Freeman’s, and owners have nowhere to sell them.
“Without a market for those you can only stockpile for so long, as big as your yard is. And it’s a loss of revenue stream for a sawmill if there’s no market for those,” Bishop says.
In the coming months, he expects the closure of Northern Pulp to continue to have a negative effect on local businesses.
“It will start to spill-off now into the contracting sector and the landowners, who aren’t going to be able to have markets to sell their woods to those sawmills because there’s no markets for the sawmills,” Bishop adds.