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Monthly trade in goods by exporter characteristics, March 2020

Released: 2020-05-25

Number of exporting enterprises (monthly)

19,706

March 2020

10.7% decrease

(annual change)

The Trade by Exporter Characteristics – Goods program provides aggregated statistical information on the characteristics of Canadian businesses that export goods to countries outside of Canada.

As an extension to the existing annual product, Statistics Canada has developed a special monthly product which is being specifically published to provide Canadians with timely information on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canadian exporters.

Data are available from January 2019 to March 2020 on a customs basis and are unadjusted for seasonal variations. Despite these limitations, the dataset is useful to track recent and general trends on exporting businesses in Canada on a monthly basis as international trade activity is entering a period of turbulence in the context of the COVID-19 crisis. The current analysis focuses on comparing trends in the number of exporters and their profile over that period.

As reported in March's international merchandise trade for Canada (on a seasonally adjusted balance of payments basis), international trade decreased notably from February to March 2020, as the impact of measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Canada became evident.

Small and medium-sized enterprises responsible for declines in number of exporters in 2020 

Rail blockades, disruptions in global supply chains, prolonged trade tensions and, more recently, measures put in place to contain COVID-19 were all factors that impacted international trade and exporting businesses in the first three months of 2020. As these recent measures have been extended, it is expected that the impact will continue to be reflected in the months to come.

The number of Canadian enterprises exporting goods abroad slowed in 2020 compared with 2019. On a year-over-year basis, declines were observed in January and February, and intensified in March. There were 19,706 enterprises exporting goods outside of Canada in March, a decrease of 10.7% compared with March 2019. For January and February, the declines from 2019 to 2020 were around 5%.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) accounted for nearly all of the reduction from March 2019 to March 2020, with more than half in manufacturing and wholesale trade, which were particularly affected by closure policies for non-essential businesses implemented by provincial governments.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Number of exporters by enterprise employment size, January to March, 2019 and 2020
Number of exporters by enterprise employment size, January to March, 2019 and 2020

Decline in number of enterprises exporting to countries hit hardest by COVID-19

Some of Canada's top trading partners were also highly affected by the pandemic, impacting the strength of the demand in these countries for Canadian products. As of March 2020, 5 of the top 11 countries with the highest cumulative confirmed COVID-19 cases were among Canada's top export destinations (the United States, China, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands).

Reductions in the number of Canadian enterprises exporting to these countries were observed in March 2020 compared with March 2019. In terms of the number of Canadian companies exporting to a given country, the United States led the decline in absolute terms (-1,649), followed by China (-329). In relative terms, the number of enterprises selling goods to Italy (-23.9%), France (-23.8%) and the United Kingdom (-16.8%) fell sharply, representing several hundred exporters, while declines for Germany, Netherlands and Belgium, for example, were less pronounced. For January (-10.4%) and February (-19.9%), considerable year-over-year declines were observed only in the number of enterprises exporting to China.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Number of exporting enterprises by selected country of destination, March 2019 and 2020
Number of exporting enterprises by selected country of destination, March 2019 and 2020 

Number of exporters down in almost all provinces

The lower number of exporters was also evident at the provincial and industrial levels, measured on an establishment basis. There were nearly 2,700 fewer exporting establishments in March 2020 compared with March 2019. In absolute terms, Ontario was the largest contributor, accounting for almost 45% of the decline, followed by Quebec and British Columbia, which together accounted for nearly 40%.

Compared with March 2019, all sectors posted declines in the number of exporters in March 2020. Manufacturing (-769), wholesale trade (-755), combined with retail trade (-251), and professional, scientific, and technical services (-172) were responsible for over 70% of the overall decrease. Similar downward trends were observed in the months of January and February from 2019 to 2020, but to a much lesser extent.

Chart 3  Chart 3: Number of exporters by province and territories, March 2019 and 2020
Number of exporters by province and territories, March 2019 and 2020

  Note to readers

Methodology

The monthly trade in goods by exporter characteristics release is a special product which is being specifically published to provide Canadians with timely information on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canadian exporters.

Data on monthly exports for reference year 2019 are derived from the annual production database, while January to March 2020 are newly developed based on a similar linkage methodology used for the annual Trade by Exporter Characteristics – Goods (TEC–Goods) program. Prior to January 2020, export data to non-US destinations were collected by Statistics Canada. In January 2020, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) began collecting non-US export data and transmitting them to Statistics Canada on a daily basis. Exporters are gradually being transitioned to the CBSA collection system, and collection by Statistics Canada is due to be phased out completely later in 2020. Data collection remains unchanged for exports to the United States; the US Census Bureau collects and transmits the data to Statistics Canada each month under the terms of the Canada–US data exchange. Overall, this 15-month time series applies very similar linkage methodology, which ensures that the consistency between monthly and annual data is maintained.

For each month from January 2019 to March 2020, the total number of identified exporters accounted for 99% of the total domestic export value. The number of exporters corresponds to the number of exporters identified within the Business Register (2020). The total value of exports refers to all transactions that can be linked from the monthly domestic exports (customs basis) database.

In this release, data disseminated at the provincial level is conceptually different from customs-based merchandise export data. Provincial data for the TEC–Goods program are based on the province where the exporters are located. Goods can be shipped to other provinces for final consumption or can be shipped from other provinces when leaving Canada. Customs-based merchandise exports are based on the province of origin, which is the province in which the goods are grown, produced, extracted or manufactured. Monthly domestic export (customs basis) data can be obtained from Canadian International Merchandise Trade (Customs Basis).

Data availability

Monthly trade in goods by exporter characteristics data are available upon request.

Contact information

For more information, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; STATCAN.infostats-infostats.STATCAN@canada.ca).

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Angela Yuan-Wu (613-240-2871; angela.yuanwu@canada.ca) or Ying Di (613-867-2736; ying.di@canada.ca), International Accounts and Trade Division.

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