Statistics Canada reported on Thursday the Canada's trade deficit jumped 41.4% to a record $4.1 billion in March, while also noting that the country's trade surplus with the United States narrowed for the fifth consecutive month to $1.7 billion. Canada's exports rose 3.7 % in March to $47.6 billion, the largest monthly exports in 10 months, while the challenge for the country was a larger 6% increase in imports to a record level, tied largely to the weaker Canadian dollar against its U.S. counterpart. A well-known Western Canada economist Trevor Toombe tweeted "Remember: we have a flexible currency, so it really doesn't matter. It's neither good news or bad," while referring to today's headlines of a record deficit.
Increases in exports were reported in many groups, with the farm, fishing and intermediate food products group increasing 14.7% to $2.8 billion as the railways showed increased service, although still below January levels.
As we do on a monthly basis, here is a look at some miscellaneous Ag commodity trade data as reported in today's report.
Given recent press stating that China has stopped purchasing soybeans from the U.S., it may be interesting to see how this may affect Canadian exporters of oilseeds. In March, Canada exported 256,937 metric tons of soybeans to all destinations, the smallest volume exported since September, although likely the largest March shipments ever. Shipments to China totaled 67,640 mt, a sharp recovery from the negligible exports to China in January and February, but still only accounts for 26% of total exports, while China had been taking roughly 40% of Canada's shipments in November/December.
Total soybean exports are 4.1% higher than the same time last crop year and 20% higher than the five-year average. Total exports of 3.855 million metric tons cover 68.8% of the current 5.6 mmt AAFC target for 2017/18, with data covering 58% of the crop year. Soybean exports are easily on track to reach the current target.
There is also some speculation that China's standoff-with the U.S. could spill over into alternative oilseeds. It is interesting to note that Canada's canola exports jumped by nearly 287,000 mt from the previous month to 842,363 mt, while movement to China increased by 91% in March to 407,774 mt. At the same time, this could simply be viewed as a return to the level of shipments to China achieved in December and January. February rail service may have played a role.
Canola oil exports are reported at 267,230 mt, the largest monthly movement seen in four months, down 1.9% from the same period in 2016/17. China was shipped the largest volume, with the U.S. a distant second. Canola meal exports are reported at 410,017 mt, the largest monthly volume shipped this crop year, while is down 7% from the same period last crop year. Roughly 71% was shipped to China, while the majority of the remaining volume was shipped to the U.S.
The trade exported 151,166 mt of lentils in March, up sharply from the previous month and the largest monthly movement seen in five months. Total exports are calculated at one million tons, 50.4% of the volume achieved in the same period of 2016/17 and 67.8% of the five-year average. Exports have reached 77.5% of the 1.3 mmt export target forecast by AAFC, ahead of the pace needed to reach this target given that the data covers the first 67% of the crop year.
Dry pea exports totaled 189,735 mt in March, the largest monthly movement seen in five months. Movement to China surged this month to 131,141 mt, the largest monthly volume shipped to China since September. Year-to-date, roughly 1.78 mmt has been exported, which represents 59% of the volume shipped in 2016 and 80.6% of the five-year average for this period. To-date 71% of the current 2.5 mmt has been exported, just slightly ahead of the steady pace needed to reach this target.
Chickpea exports were reported at 2,797 mt in March, by far the smallest monthly volume shipped in the eight months of this crop year. Total exports are calculated at 106,242 mt, 40% higher than the same period in 2016/17 and 90% higher than the five-year average. Given the current AAFC target of 140,000 mt of 2017/18 exports, the current shipped volume has reached 76% of this volume and is ahead of the pace needed to achieve this goal. The rapid movement of chickpeas is behind the expected 116.4% increase in acres seeded in 2018, as reported in Statistics Canada's March intentions report.
Mustard exports were reported at 9,538 mt in March, down from the previous month and the fourth-highest monthly volume shipped this crop year. Year-to-date exports are reported at 75,404 mt, 95.3% of the volume moved in the same period of 2016/17 and 92.6% of the five-year average for this period. Year-to-date exports at 75,404 mt have reached 60.3% of AAFC's current 125,000-mt target for the crop year, behind the steady pace needed to reach this target.
A reported 11,925 mt of canary seed was exported in March, the largest monthly volume shipped in four months. Exports are close to being on track with the volume shipped equal to the same period in 2016/17, while is equal to roughly 95% of the five-year average. Cumulative volumes equal 62% of the 150,000-mt crop year target and is behind the steady pace needed to reach this target.
Canada exported 40,592 mt of corn in March, the smallest weekly volume shipped in five months and the second-lowest volume shipped this crop year, shipped almost entirely to the U.S. Year-to-date exports total 616,800 mt, 7.8% higher than the same period last crop year and 21.1% higher than the five-year average. Total exports have achieved 35.2% of the 1.750 mmt export target set by AAFC, while remaining behind the pace needed to reach this target with 58% of the row crop year behind us.
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