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Monthly trade in goods by exporter characteristics, April 2020

Released: 2020-06-22

Number of exporting enterprises (monthly)


April 2020

24.8% decrease

(annual change)

The number of exporting enterprises fell by 24.8% to 16,513 in April on a year-over-year basis, as the decline observed in recent months continued to accelerate. Small and medium-sized exporting enterprises accounted for nearly all the decline. The smallest enterprises (those employing fewer than 50 people and with an export value ranging from $1 million to $24.9 million) were particularly affected.

By April, measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, such as physical distancing and the closure of non-essential businesses, had already been in place for several weeks. Canadian businesses involved in exporting goods felt substantial impacts as the measures became prolonged and the global pandemic continued to worsen.

Number of exporters down across all census metropolitan areas

Since January 2019, the earliest month for which monthly data are available, firms located in census metropolitan areas (CMAs) have accounted for over three-quarters of all Canada's exporting establishments. Over this period, the overall number of exporters in CMAs reached its lowest level in April.

The decline in the number of exporters from April 2019 to April 2020 was led by Toronto (-1,471), Montréal (-1,059) and Vancouver (-499), these three CMAs being home to more than two-fifths (44.8%) of all exporting establishments in Canada. In percentage terms, among these three CMAs, Montréal posted the largest decline (-31.2%), followed by Toronto (-26.5%) and Vancouver (-21.6%).

Chart 1  Chart 1: Exporters by selected census metropolitan area, April 2019 and April 2020
Exporters by selected census metropolitan area, April 2019 and April 2020

International demand for manufacturing products falls

On a regional basis, the number of exporting establishments declined across all provinces and territories in April 2020 compared with April 2019, as nearly 6,000 fewer establishments sold goods abroad. Over one-third (34.3%) of the decline was attributable to a decrease in the manufacturing sector in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta combined.

The demand for components was affected as production lines in factories around the world were halted. On a year-over-year basis, the number of exporters that sold intermediary manufacturing parts abroad, such as furniture and parts, plastic articles, parts and accessories of motor vehicles, and articles of iron or steel, decreased by over 1,600, a decline of 35.5% from April 2019. Establishments in Ontario were particularly affected, accounting for over half (51.4%) of this decline. In addition, there were 332 fewer firms (-38.3%) that sold motor vehicles abroad.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Exporters by type of exports, April 2019 and April 2020
Exporters by type of exports, April 2019 and April 2020

The number of enterprises exporting to Canada's principal trading partners continues to decline

The number of Canadian enterprises exporting goods to Canada's principal trading partners was substantially lower in April 2020 compared with the same month in 2019. The United States (-4,401) continued to lead the decline in absolute terms.

In percentage terms, the decrease in the number of enterprises that sold goods to Europe was led by Spain (-41.5%), France (-39.8%), Italy (-32.5%), the United Kingdom (-31.9%) and Germany (-24.2%), as cases of COVID-19 reached the hundreds of thousands.

Outside the United States and Europe, fewer enterprises exported goods to Brazil (-30.2%) and Russia (-16.1%), countries that are prominent suppliers of raw materials and manufactured goods. The number of enterprises exporting goods to India fell by 55.8% as the country experienced a nationwide lockdown implemented near the end of March. Meanwhile, 305 fewer firms exported to China as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 began to stabilize, a decline of 18.7% from April 2019.

Chart 3  Chart 3: Change in the number of exporting enterprises by selected country of destination, April 2019 and April 2020
Change in the number of exporting enterprises by selected country of destination, April 2019 and April 2020 

  Note to readers


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

Data are available from January 2019 to April 2020 on a customs basis and are not seasonally adjusted. Despite these limitations, the dataset is useful for tracking recent and general monthly trends for exporting businesses in Canada as international trade activity enters a period of turbulence in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The current analysis focuses on comparing trends in the number of exporters and their profile over that period.

Data on monthly exports for reference year 2019 are derived from the annual production database, while data for January to April 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, data on exports 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, a very similar linkage methodology is applied to this 16-month monthly time series as to the annual data, ensuring that consistency between monthly and annual data is maintained.

For each month from January 2019 to April 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 in 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 are 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

Data on monthly trade in goods by exporter characteristics are available upon request.

Contact information

For more information, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300;

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

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