Meanwhile, the mill has also contracted to start bringing in barges of wood chips from Quebec for its own use and bark for Nova Scotia Power's adjacent biomass boiler starting this spring.
That's all expensive wood. Particularly when private land contractors in northern Nova Scotia are getting the equivalent of about $60 per tonne for pulpwood delivered to the yard.
"If they're going to pay $93 a tonne to New Brunswick then why can't they pay that locally," said Cecil Blue, owner of C.D. Blue Forestry in Queensville.
"It's their own fault that they can't get people to cut for them locally. If they would just pay the people who have been loyal to them, pay them more and they will get more wood."
Usually the mill would have a yard stockpiled with wood to fill its demands during the period of spring thaw, when soft woods roads make them impassable for logging trucks. This year, however, the lot is largely empty.
According to Allan Eddy, Port Hawkesbury Paper's director of business development, it's a problem at wood yards this year throughout the province and is mainly because of a shortage of harvesting and trucking capacity in the woods.
"To some extent these issues are cyclical and simply require time and effort to restore balance and fundamentally are part of the ebb and flow of several related business cycles," stated Eddy in a written response.
"Nonetheless they have real time impacts on the business. We always focus as much as possible on sourcing fibre from our regular catchment area (seven eastern counties). However, from time to time, we are forced to import chips and or bark from outside our regular catchment area, including outside the province."
Port Hawkesbury Paper was given the lease on nearly all the Crown land in the seven eastern counties by Darrell Dexter's NDP government in 2012. A freedom of information request last year showed that in 2017 the province received $3.1 million in stumpage fees from the mill but paid the mill back $4.4 million for silviculture work.
Under the Forest Utilization Licence Agreement, the mill has the right to cut 400,000 tonnes off the Crown land annually.
Both the mill and the Department of Lands and Forestry deny that the imports are due to a lack of available fibre on the huge tracts of Crown land where the mill receives favourable rates to cut.
North Nova Forestry Cooperative manager Greg Watson said that uncertainty around the future of the industry, at least in part caused by the current impasse over Northern Pulp's proposed effluent treatment facility, has led to harvesting contractors delaying equipment investments.
"It's a high-risk, low-margin business as it is and you've got to like doing it," said Watson of running a harvesting outfit.
"Why invest in a high-risk, low-margin business? You might as well take that $3 million (worth of equipment) and go somewhere else."