Wednesday's release of Statistics Canada's December merchandise trade data is a part of the catch-up plan announced by the agency following the United States government shutdown and its impact on cross-border data flow. This report is delayed by roughly one month, while a second report on March 27 will cover January trade data. February data will be released on April 17 and March data is set for release on May 9 while April trade data is set for release in early June when the monthly reports return to scheduled dates.
Canada faced a difficult combination of a 3.8% drop in exports in the month of December, largely tied to energy exports, while imports were reported 1.6% higher due to the import of energy products, resulting in a jump in Canada's merchandise trade deficit from $2 billion to a record $4.6 billion. Earlier in the year, the month of July data shows a $120.9 million trade surplus, the first surplus reported since December 2016.
Canada's total monthly exports fell for the fifth straight month to the lowest level reported in 10 months at $46.3 billion. The broad Farm, Fishing an Intermediate Food Products category showed exports valued at $3.437 billion in December, the highest level reported in six months and the second highest seen in 2018.
The following represents miscellaneous trade data for December included in Wednesday's report.
The volume of lentils exported in December totaled 138,640 mt, up slightly from November's volume and above the volume shipped in December 2017. The largest volume was shipped to the United Arab Emirates at 26,689 mt, while India followed this month with 16,755 mt shipped. Year-to-date volumes shipped to India total 114,321 mt, only marginally lower than the same period in 2017/18. Cumulative lentil exports total 726,651 mt, up 16.9% from the same period in 2017-18 although is only 68% of the five-year average for this period. This volume represents 42.7% of the current 1.7 mmt export target set by AAFC, while with this data representing 42% of the crop year, indicates the current pace of movement is on track to reach this target.
Dry pea exports totaled 235,756 mt in December, the lowest monthly volume shipped in four months, although is well above the volume shipped in the same month of 2017-18. The largest volume was shipped to China at 114,247 mt or 48.5% of the total volume, although this is the lowest monthly volume shipped since August. Year-to-date, 1.377 mmt has been shipped, 7.6% higher than the same five month period in 2017-18 while 88.2% of the five-year average. This volume represents 44.4% of the current 3.1 mmt AAFC forecast set by AAFC, a target recently revised higher by 400,000 mt, while roughly equal to the volume shipped in 2017-18. The current pace of movement is on track to reach this export demand forecast.
Chickpea exports are reported at 14,324 mt, the smallest volume shipped in three months while slightly below the volume shipped in the same month of 2018. Year-to-date, 58,118 mt has been exported, just 65% of the volume shipped in the same period of 2017-18 and 30.8% higher than the five-year average. To-date, exports have reached 64.6% of the current 90,000 mt export target, well-ahead of the steady pace needed to reach this target.
Mustard exports fell to 9,706 mt in December, the lowest volume shipped in three months while the largest December volume shipped in three years. Year-to-date exports are 5.2% higher than the same period last crop year while only 94.3% of the five-year average. Cumulative shipments represent 43.4% of the current export forecast, currently on track to reach this target.
Canary seed exports were reported at 104,834 mt, the lowest volume shipped in three months while down from the same month last crop year. Cumulative exports of 64,023 mt are 6% higher than the same period in 2017-18 while 96% of the five-year average. Crop year exports represent 51.2% of the 125,000 mt AAFC target, well-ahead of the steady pace needed to reach this target.
December corn exports totaled 271,413 mt, the highest monthly volume shipped this crop year while the largest December shipments reported in eight years. Close to 50% of this volume was shipped to Ireland who has been shipped large volumes in November and December, while shipments to the U.S. were reported at 17,427 mt, the lowest monthly volume seen this crop year. Year-to-date exports of corn total 584,158 mt, up 30.9% from the same period last crop year and 91% higher than the five-year average. This cumulative volume represents 32.5% of the current 1.8 mmt export forecast, while on track to achieve this volume.
Canada's imports of corn were reported at 196,606 mt in December and the lowest monthly volume imported since September. Year-to-date imports are reported at 842,281 mt, up 65.3% from the same period in 2017-18.
Exports of soybeans were reported at 922,883 mt, down sharply from the previous month but still the largest December volume ever shipped. A reported 85% of this volume was shipped to China, down from 92% shipped to China in the month of November. As of December, total exports are reported at 3.605 mmt, up 18.1% from the same period last crop year and 36.7% higher than the five-year average. To-date, exports account for 65.5% of the current 5.5 mmt export target set by AAFC, while well-ahead of the pace needed to reach this volume.
Also of interest, 170,313 mt was imported from all suppliers in December (160,060 mt from the U.S.), down from the previous month. Since September, 559,025 mt has been imported, up 255% from the same period in 2017 while 374% higher than the three-year average.
Canola oil exports totaled 241,903 mt in December, the smallest monthly volume shipped this crop year, while cumulative exports are 7.2% higher than the same period in 2017-18. Canola meal exports are down slightly from the previous month to 439,091 mt, still close to the largest monthly volume shipped this crop year. Cumulative exports are 7% higher than the same period in 2017-18.
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