How does the forest sector contribute to Canada’s economy?
The forest sector is an important contributor to Canada’s economy, serving as a key source of prosperity for people and communities across the country. The Canadian forest sector has traditionally manufactured products such as lumber, panels, wood pulp, newsprint and other printing and writing papers. However, new non-traditional products are added to the forest sector’s repertoire each year to meet the needs and demands of our ever-changing world. The forest sector serves as an important source of economic opportunity for people and communities, employing Canadians from every province and territory except Nunavut. The economic contributions from the sector are particularly important in many rural, remote and Indigenous communities, where forest-related work is often the main source of income.
Key sustainability indicators
Explore the report to find information on the key sustainability indicators:
- Forest sector gross domestic product: Annual reporting of the Canadian forest sector’s GDP. Contributions to nominal GDP is one of the primary indicators used to evaluate the size and health of Canada’s forest sector.
- Production of forest products: Total yearly production of Canadian forest products. This indicator is important because Canada is one of the top global manufacturers of forest products, and production is one of the first indicators influenced by economic and market challenges.
- Exports of forest products: Total value of annual exports of Canadian forest products. This indicator provides information related to how the Canadian forest sector meets the needs of global consumers, including helping them achieve their climate mitigation goals, while making a substantial contribution to Canada’s economy and balance of trade.
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Forest sector gross domestic product
Canadian forest sector’s GDP, 2011–2021
Graph 1: Nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of the Canadian forest sector generally increased over the last 10 years, steadily from about $19 billion in 2011 to just over $25 billion in 2020, then suddenly increasing to about $35 billion in 2021.
The wood product manufacturing subsector made up the greatest share of forest sector employment, followed by the pulp and paper manufacturing subsector and lastly by the forestry and logging subsector.
Graph 2: Between 2011 and 2018, the real GDP growth of the whole Canadian industrial sector fluctuated between 1% and 4%, whereas the Canadian forest sector (a subset of this) oscillated between positive 4% and negative 2% for this same time period. In 2019, the Canadian forest sector experienced a sharp decline in real GDP, reaching near negative 8%, whereas the whole industrial sector remained at around 2% growth. In 2020, both the Canadian forest sector and the whole industrial sector experienced a negative growth, at about negative 2% and 5%, respectively. In 2021, both experienced a marked recovery, reaching positive real GDP growth values of around 5%.
Table showing the contribution, in billions of dollars, of three subsectors of the forest sector (forestry and logging, wood product manufacturing, pulp and paper manufacturing) to nominal GDP for each year from 2011 to 2021.
|Year||Nominal GDP (billions of dollars)|
|Forestry and logging||Wood product manufacturing||Pulp and paper manufacturing|
Table showing the annual percentage of real GDP growth for the total of all industries and for the forest sector for each year between 2011 and 2021.
|Year||Real GDP growth (% annual)|
|Total all industries||Total forest industry|
Production of forest products
Production of Canadian forest products, 2011–2021
Graph 1: Over the period of 2011 to 2021, the production of Canadian newsprint has declined on average, from a high of nearly 5 Mt in 2011 to just under 2 Mt in 2021. The production of printing and writing paper has also been declining on average, from a high of nearly 4 Mt in 2011 to about 2.5 Mt in 2021. The production of wood pulp has been steadily declining from 2011 to 2021, from a high of about 18 Mt in 2011 to a low of about 14 Mt in 2021.
Graph 2: Softwood lumber production increased between 2011 and 2017, from about 52 to 65 million cubic metres (m3). From 2018 to 2021, production volumes decreased down to about 55 million m3. Structural wood panel production consistently (though mildly) increased from 2011 to 2018, from a low of about 6 million m3 to around 9 million m3.
Table showing the production volume, in millions of tonnes, of newsprint, printing and writing paper, and wood pulp for each year from 2011 to 2021.
|Year||Production (millions of tonnes)|
|Newsprint||Printing and writing paper||Wood pulp|
Table showing the production volume, in millions of cubic metres, of softwood lumber and structural wood panels for each year from 2011 to 2021.
|Year||Production (millions of cubic metres)|
|Softwood lumber||Structural wood panels|
Exports of forest products
Exports of Canadian forest products, 2011–2021
This graph shows the value of forest product exports in billions of dollars for each year from 2011 to 2021 in total and for six product categories: softwood lumber, newsprint, printing and writing paper, structural wood panels, wood pulp and other forest products.
Overall, forest product exports increased from over $26 billion in 2011, to nearly $45 billion in 2021, with a 2-year dip from 2019 to 2020 with export values around $33 billion.
Softwood lumber exports have made up the largest share of Canadian forest product exports on average, followed by other forest products and wood pulp, and lastly by newsprint, printing and writing paper and structural wood panels. Overall, softwood lumber, other forest products and structural wood panel exports have seen increasing exports between 2011 and 2021; wood pulp exports have remained on average about the same, whereas newsprint and printing and writing paper exports have seen overall decreases in this same period.
Table showing the export value, in billions of dollars, of softwood lumber, newsprint, printing and writing paper, structural wood panels, wood pulp and other forest products for each year from 2011 to 2021.
|Year||Exports (billions of dollars)|
|Softwood lumber||Newsprint||Printing and writing paper||Structural wood panels||Wood pulp||Other forest products|
Sources and information
See Sources and information in the downloadable report for detailed sources.
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