Forestry industry in South Carolina experiencing highs and lows because of the COVID-19 pandemic

Forestry industry in South Carolina experiencing highs and lows because of the COVID-19 pandemic

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Over the past couple of months, it may have been a little tough getting some toilet paper at your local grocery store.

Toilet paper and other hygiene products have been in high demand since COVID-19 began appearing in the Palmetto State. In turn, so has the wood pulp used to make these products.

These changes in demand has impacted one of South Carolina's largest industries.

According to the Forestry Association of South Carolina, the forestry industry has an economic impact of about $21.2 billion in South Carolina. Right now they're experiencing highs and lows because of the pandemic.

Cam Crawford is the President of the Forestry Association. He said mills that make hygiene products like toilet paper are staying very busy. They are also in need of a constant supply of wood.

On the other hand, the commercial paper sector in the state has taken a hit. Crawford said because of the closure of government offices, schools and other businesses, the demand for paper is down.

"Commercial paper usage is way down. We're talking somewhere around 70% down," Crawford said.

Timber harvesting companies we spoke with across the state said there's been an increase in demand for lumber that can be used for home improvement projects the last couple months.

Reg Williams is the Co-Owner of Log Creek Timber in Edgefield County. He said with changes in demand they've had to adjust. "Overall its effected the wood flow and reduced the amount of wood that's needed for the supply chain."

Saw mills that supply home building companies said they have seen a dip in demand because construction projects have slowed a little bit. They have shipped out less product than they normally would.

When wood supply begins to build up it starts a domino effect. Trip Chavis is the President and CEO of Milliken Forestry said, "When the decisions to defer harvest is made -- it's a compounding problem because we begin to stockpile wood on the stump."

This lowers timber prices. According to Chavis and Crawford, these prices have been recovering since the recession in 2008.

Crawford said this also impacts the logging force in the state. "Those guys are working to 30 to 60 percent capacity. When you're talking about your logging force -- those are real men and women and they cannot take a dip in work like that for very long."

He also said when offices and schools open up and more homes are built that’s when you’ll see things go back to normal for the forestry industry.

Copyright 2020 WIS. All rights reserved.