Statistics Canada released its delayed February international merchandise trade report on Wednesday, still linked to the U.S. government shutdown earlier in the year and its effects on cross-border data flow. The country's imports fell by 1.6% in the month of February while exports fell by 1.3% for all goods, with the result a $200 million reduction in Canada's trade deficit with the world to $2.9 billion, the lowest seen in three months.
Exports of all merchandise were down from January to $48.619 billion. The broad Farm, Fishing and Intermediate Food Products category reports exports of $3.024 billion, the lowest monthly volume measured in dollars in 12 months.
As is done on a monthly basis, here is a look at miscellaneous ag products reported in this report. The focus remains on commodities not covered in weekly and monthly Canadian Grain Commission data reports.
Lentil exports in February were reported at 229,213 metric tons, down slightly from the previous month but possibly the largest volume ever shipped in the month of February. The largest volumes were shipped to India (78,729 mt) and Bangladesh (38,625 mt) with India's volume down only slightly from January and close to the largest volume shipped since May 2017. Year-to-date volumes exported total 1.196 million metric tons, up 39.6% from the same period in 2017-18 and down 12.4% from the five-year average. This volume accounts for 70.3% of the current AAFC export forecast of 1.7 mmt, ahead of the steady pace needed to reach this volume although India's coming Rabi harvest will slow demand.
Dry pea exports were 261,707 mt in February, the largest monthly volume shipped in three months. Movement to China was up this month to 113,720 mt, or 43.5% of the total. Year to date, exports totaled 1.830 mmt, up 15.3% from the same period last crop year while trailing the five-year average by 5.1%. This month, AAFC left the export forecast unchanged at 3.1 mmt with the current pace of movement on track to achieve this volume.
February data points to chickpea movement at 7,956 mt, the lowest monthly volume in five months, with the largest volume destined for Pakistan with volumes shipped to the United States a distant second. Cumulative exports are reported at 78,956 mt, down 23.5% below the year-ago pace while 31.2% higher than the five-year average. With AAFC's export forecast set at 90,000 mt, the pace of movement is well ahead of the steady pace needed to reach this volume.
Mustard exports were 10,905 mt, the largest volume in three months. Cumulative exports at 69,462 mt are up 5.5% from the same period in 2017-18, while 1.5% lower than the five-year average for this period. The current pace of movement accounts for 62% of the current export forecast of 112,000 mt, slightly ahead of the pace needed to reach this target.
Canary seed exports were 12,156 mt, the largest monthly volume shipped in three months and the largest February movement seen in four years. Year to date, 86,925 mt have been shipped -- up 22.8% from the same period in 2017-18 while .8% higher than the five-year average. The current pace of movement accounts for 69.5% of AAFC's 125,000 mt export target, well-ahead of the pace needed to reach the current export forecast.
Flax exports in the month of February totaled 29,406 mt, the smallest monthly volume shipped in four months. The U.S. and China combined to take 92.7% of total shipments with U.S. volumes up this month and movement to China down from the previous month, while cumulative volumes shipped to China are down 29% from the same period last crop year due to increased competition. Year-to-date volumes total 253,027 mt, down 16.6% from last crop year while down 26.1% from the five-year average. Cumulative exports account for 63.3% of the 400,000 mt forecast set by AAFC, slightly ahead of the steady pace needed to reach this volume.
Corn exports totaled 113,169 mt in February, more than double the previous month and the largest February volume shipped in five years. Shipments to Ireland (64,994 mt) and the U.K (28,662 mt) dominated this month's exports, close to 83% of total shipments. The cumulative volume shipped is 750,656 mt, up 30.3% from the same period in 2017-18 and 69% higher than the five-year average for this period (Sept through March). In AAFC's April supply and demand forecast, exports were increased by 200,000 mt to 2 mmt, while the current pace of movement trails the steady pace needed to reach this volume.
AAFC's increased export forecast in April was offset by a corresponding increase in U.S. corn imports of 200,000 mt to 2.2 mmt. This forecast could be reached easily with Statistics Canada reporting Canada's corn imports at 428,858 mt in February. Cumulative imports are pegged at 1.5 mmt in the first six months of the crop year. This volume is up 108% from the same period in 2018-19.
Soybean exports in February totaled 89,514 mt, the lowest monthly volume shipped this crop year while well below typical February volumes in data checked to 2011-12. A combination of Japan (20,102 mt) and Bangladesh (30,000 mt) were shipped 56% of the total volume. China was shipped a negligible 1,750 mt in February, following 647 mt in January, 783,115 mt in December and 1.4 mmt in November. Year-to-date exports total 3.8 mmt to all destinations, up 5.7% from the same period in 2017-18 and 17.2% higher than the five-year average. To date, exports total 69.1% of AAFC's crop-year export forecast, well ahead of the steady pace needed to reach the current 5.5 mmt export forecast released by AAFC.
Canada's soybean imports in February were 64,601 mt, the lowest monthly volume in six months. Year-to-date imports are pegged at 713,719 mt, up 197% from the same period last crop year. For some unknown reason, the current volume of imports exceeds the AAFC's crop year forecast of 650,000 mt of imports for the entire crop year.
Canola oil exports totaled 208,431 mt this month, the lowest monthly volume shipped in 18 months. Exports to China dominated this movement, down only slightly from the previous month, although the lowest monthly volume shipped in 13 months. Cumulative exports total 1.779 mmt, up 1.6% from the same period last crop year. Canola meal exports were 280,602 mmt, the smallest monthly volume shipped this crop year as well as seen in data for the previous two crop years. Cumulative meal exports total 2.626 mmt, up 3.3% from the same time last crop year. While U.S. exports dominate this movement, exports to China at 68,553 mt represent the smallest volume shipped to China since July 2017 and indicative of falling feed demand in that country linked to the African Swine Fever.
February data shows exports of 23,232 kg of frozen swine cuts to China in February -- 59% of total shipments and the largest total volume shipped since May 2018. This is the largest monthly volume shipped to China since March 2017. An additional 3,268 kg of frozen hams/shoulders was also shipped to China, up from the previous month and representing 57.3% of total shipments. A Twitter source, @JCIChina, reports that country's largest year-over-year decline in sow inventories on record in March that will continue to alter trade flows of pork.
March trade data is set for release on May 9, which must be very close to being back on track with the regular scheduling.
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