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Tolko slows production at Kamloops mill idling workers

Tolko is shutting down some shifts at its Heffley Creek facility in Kamloops, according to a March 22, 2023, internal memo.
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Tolko Industries mill in Kamloops is cutting shifts as the demand for its wood products dwindle.

Beginning next month, Vernon-based Tolko Industries is putting a stop to some of its graveyard and weekend shifts, according to an internal company memo to staff sent to

The Heffley Creek facility produces plywood and veneer, employing 250 people. Most of its product is plywood, but its the low demand for veneer that's forcing the shift changes.

The March 22 memo told employees there is "no market demand" for veneer sales. It continued to say demand for veneer and plywood, along with log availability, are all to blame for the "reduced operational footprint" in some way.

READ MORE: Kamloops pulp mill union watching closely as other mills close

"We need the market to self-correct in respect to demand across our industry," the memo from plant manager Phil Bean reads.

Tolko employees were told the low demand for the veneer products is "unsustainable," so the facility is reducing lathe and dryer shifts. The shift shutdowns will begin on April 1 for its weekend dryer shifts and April 3 for graveyard lathe shifts, according to the memo.

The internal memo did not mention whether any employees will be laid off in the process, but a Tolko spokesperson told they will be redeployed.

"As we obtain more information we will provide updated communication around our operational footprint," the memo reads.

Brett VanderHoek with Tolko said the situation is "not ideal" and is caused by high fibre costs and low plywood demand across North America.

The shift reduction is temporary, but it's unclear how long it will last.

It's the latest slowdown in a difficult first quarter of 2023 for the forestry industry in B.C.

Kruger's pulp mill in Kamloops is also feeling the pressure as the mill struggles to keep enough raw material.

That mill often uses logging waste other facilities won't use to produce its pulp and is seeing a drop in inventory over the past few months. So far, it doesn't appear Kruger has laid off employees or slowed operations, but it also hasn't announced any changes in product demand.

READ MORE: Mill closures threaten to punch holes in the fabric of rural B.C. towns

Other mills in the province have closed outright, largely impacting northern communities like Prince George and Chetwynd.

Tolko also temporarily shutdown its Armstrong and Soda Creek operations earlier this year, which continued through January and February until they fully reopened on March 6.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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