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In 2009, 150,890 establishments imported merchandise into Canada, down 5.7% from 2008 and representing the second consecutive annual decrease in the number of importers. The value of imports felt to the lowest level since 2004, down 17.4% from 2008, to $314.1 billion (Table 1-1 and Table 1-2).

From 2002 to 2009, the number of importing establishments increased by 9.4%, while the value of imports fell by 2.4% (Table 1-1 and Table 1-2).

Extensive decline across sectors

In 2009, non-manufacturing sectors imported $211.7 billion of merchandise, a drop of 10.8% from 2008. The number of importers in these sectors decreased 5.8% to 126,058 establishments. However, they continued to account for a large share of total import values (67.4%) and the bulk of the importer population (83.5%). This year, the wholesale trade sector represented 49.3% of the total import value and the largest group of importers1. The wholesale and retail trade sectors both registered their largest decline in importer population as well as value of imports (Table 1-1 and Table 1-2).

The 24,832 establishments in the manufacturing sector imported $102.3 billion of merchandise in 2009, a drop of 28.3% from 2008. The decrease in number of importers in this sector was the largest on record, owing to declines in the fabricated metal product, machinery and miscellaneous manufacturing subsectors. The value of imports in the manufacturing sector also declined, mainly due to decreasing imports by the petroleum and coal products subsector and the transportation equipment manufacturing subsector. The total value imported by the petroleum and coal products subsector fell by 65.0% in 2009, reaching its lowest level since 2003. The value of imports by the transportation equipment subsector plunged to just over one-third of its 2002 level (Table 2-1 and Table 2-2).

Diversified origin of imports

The composition of country of origin for imported goods into Canada has remained relatively stable since 2002. In 2009, 120,853 establishments (80.1% of the total) imported from the United States. More than one-third of all importers imported exclusively from the United States, while one-fifth of the total imported exclusively from countries other than the United States (Table 3-1 and Table 4-1).

The United States' share of imports into Canada has been in decline. Compared to 2008, the number of establishments importing from the United States decreased 6.6%, while the value of merchandise imported from the United States fell 18.2% to $159.1 billion in 2009. Imports from the United States accounted for 50.7% of the total value imported in 2009, compared to 61.7% in 2002 (Table 4-1 and Table 4-2).

Approximately 30,000 establishments (19.9% of the total) imported goods exclusively from countries other than the United States, a total value of $5.6 billion in 2009. The number of importers in this group continued to decline after reaching a peak of 33,181 in 2006 (Table 3-1 and Table 3-2).

Imports originating from countries other than the United States continued to increase their share of the total imports values, accounting for close to half of the total in 2009; this share was just above one-third of the total in 2002. This highlights an increasing trend among Canadian importers to purchase goods from countries other than the United States (Table 5-2).

Decline in all sizes of importers

In 2009, the composition of the importer population remained relatively stable. However, declines in importers were noted among all sizes of importers. Although they continued to account for the majority of the importer population, establishments importing less than $1 million declined for the second consecutive year, falling 5.2%. Medium-sized importers, with an import value between $1 million and $25 million, had the largest decrease in population on record, falling 9.5% from 2008. The large-sized establishments, importing $25 million and over, also had a record decline, as 8.9% of its population ceased to import in 2009 (Table 6-1).

Large importing establishments represented less than one percent of all importers in 2009; however, they accounted for 76.7% of the total value of imports in 2009. Small importers accounted for over 90% of the population, but just 3.9% of total import value (Table 6-1 and Table 6-2).

More than 80% of importers were establishments with less than 50 employees and had an import value less than $1 million. This class of importers accounted for only 3.4% of total imports in 2009. Importers with 200 or more employees and an import value of $25 million and over accounted for 0.3% of the population and 36.8% of the total import value (Table 7-1 and Table 7-2).

Three provinces account for the bulk of the decline in importer population

In 2009, most Canadian importing establishments were located in Ontario (40.3%), Quebec (17.9%), British Columbia (17.2%), and Alberta (12.7%). Ontario (63.2%) accounted for more than half of the total import value, followed by Quebec (17.5%), Alberta (10.1%), and British Columbia (5.0%) (Table 8-1 and Table 8-2).

Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta accounted for the majority of the decline in the importer population in 2009. Ontario experienced the largest decline in import values, falling 12.5% from 2008, as the number of importers from this province decreased 4.5%. Alberta experienced a decrease in import value of 29.4% and a 10.0% drop in importer population from 2008. The importer population in British Columbia shrank 7.9%, while import value fell by one-fifth (Table 8-1 and Table 8-2).


  1. Due to changes in methodology in 2008, there was an improved linkage to the Business Register for the wholesale, retail and manufacturing sectors.
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