Rick Jeffery, President, Canada Wood Group,President & CEO, Coast Forest Products Association

Having taken part in trade missions to India over the past three years, the most recent consisting of  a 26-member delegation in February, it was apparent that the Indian market has a strong demand for wood not currently met through its traditional supply chains. Visits to major manufacturers, meetings with key buyers and influencers, and learning more about the developing local manufacturing conditions just reinforces this fact.

The Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia have shown commitment to expanding our export market.  Having invested more than $2 million in market development in India last year, a portion of that funding was dedicated to establishing a Forestry Innovation Investment (FII) office in Mumbai to establish a solid framework for export development.

India is a fast-growing market with approximately 50 percent of the population under 25 years of age.  The young emerging generation has western tastes in home and furniture design, which yields opportunities for Canadian wood products. For example, softwood lumber can displace hardwoods like teak in certain applications, and western influence means there’s a place for western species. Moreover, many of the traditional woods used in India are becoming scarce due to over-harvesting, which is causing manufacturers to look at other species such as Canadian yellow cedar and hemlock as viable alternatives.

Long-term commitment

The development of this overseas market will require a continued long-term commitment from Canada. Challenges that need to be addressed include the lack of marketing information needed to educate Indian manufacturers and potential consumers on Canadian forest and wood products. Currently, those interested in market trends must rely solely on wood fairs and exhibitions for that information.   Also, funding for the capital investment required to develop the supply chain that reaches halfway around the world, and takes six weeks transit time from Vancouver, is another obvious challenge to overcome.

The Canadian forest industry is optimistic about the potential for Canadian forest products in India’s growing market. Our presentations about the environmental and technical merits of our sustainably produced, high-quality wood are well-received and there exists real promise for higher-value applications and uses that could offset the costs of shipping and mesh with the commercial realities of industry.  We definitely have more work to do, and it is work worth doing.