A combination of record Canadian exports in April of $48.6 billion, up 1.6% from the previous month, along with a month-over-month decline in imports, led to a sharp decline in Canada's trade deficit to $1.9 billion, down 51% from last month. This was well-below expectations and the lowest trade deficit reported in six months after reaching a record level in March.
It is interesting that Wednesday evening news reported that economists have largely downplayed the positive trade data from April as the uncertainty of current trade actions against Canada by the United States have clouded Canada's future trade.
Statistics Canada noted total exports having increased in six of the past seven months, up 3% from the same month in 2017. Exports of metals such as gold as well as crude oil played a major role in April data. Exports in the farm, fishing and intermediate food products were reported at $2.772 billion, down 1.4% from the previous month, although are 4.3% higher than the same month in 2017.
Here is a look at miscellaneous trade data as it applies to Canadian crops:
In April, 151,942 metric tons of lentils were exported, up only slightly from last month and the largest April shipments in five years. The largest volume shipments were reported to Mexico and Turkey, although even India purchased 8,720 mt in April, the largest monthly volume shipped to that country since October. Year-to-date (August-through-April), 1.160 mmt of exports are reported, 55% of the same period in 2016/17 and 71.6% of the five-year average. With data covering the first three-quarters of the current crop year, exports represent 82.9% of the current 1.4-million-metric-ton target set by AAFC, indicating that the pace of shipments is ahead of the pace needed to reach this target. During the past five years, an average of 79% of crop year exports were achieved as of April, which projects to crop year exports of 1.468 mmt.
In April, 2,058 tons of chickpeas were exported, with 71% to the U.S. This was the lowest monthly volume of exports since January 2013/14, with at least one Saskatchewan broker reporting that old-crop supplies are difficult to find. Crop year exports total 108,926 mt, up 26% from the same period in 2016/17 and 66% higher than the previous five-year average. Crop year exports now account for 77.4% of AAFC's 140,000-mt target, slightly ahead of the pace needed to reach this target. Old-crop supplies could be a limiting factor in achieving this target.
April dry pea exports totaled 345,908 mt, the largest monthly volume shipped in seven months and the second largest volume shipped this crop year. A reported 55% of this volume was shipped to China, the largest volume shipped to this country since September. Just the same, April shipments were down close to 133,000 mt or 28% from the same month in 2017. Year-to-date, 2.124 mmt has been exported, 61% of the volume shipped in the same period in 2016/17 and 87% of the five-year average. At the same time, exports now account for 85% of the current 2.5-mmt target set by AAFC, well-ahead of the pace needed to reach this target. Over the past five crop years, an average of 80% of crop year exports were reported as of April, which projects to 2017/18 exports of 2.655 mmt.
Canary seed exports in April are reported at 14,650 mt, the largest monthly shipments in five months and the largest April shipments seen in five years. Crop year exports are reported at 107,371 mt, equal to the volume moved in the same period in 2016/17 while 95.4% of the five-year average. AAFC has set a crop year target of 150,000 mt, roughly 3,000 mt below estimated 2016/17 exports, while current exports account for 71.6% of this target, slightly behind the cumulative pace needed to realize this volume. During the past five years, an average of 73.7% of crop year exports were realized as of April, which projects to crop year exports of 145,700 mt, slightly lower than the current target.
Mustard exports were reported at 10,997 mt in April, up slightly from the previous month, but lower than the volume shipped in April in four of the past five crop years. Exports total 86,393 mt in the first nine months of the crop year, 93.7% of the volume shipped in the same period in 2016/17 and 92.8% of the five-year average. This volume represents 69.1% of the 125,000-mt target set by AAFC, slightly behind the pace needed to reach this volume. Over the past five years, an average of 75% of crop year exports were realized as of April, which projects to a crop year total of 115,190 mt, short of the crop year target.
Soybean exports in April totaled 176,230 mt, the lowest monthly volume shipped in seven months and below the volume shipped in the same month of 2016/17. Total crop year exports total 4.030 mmt, 3.4% higher than 2016/17 and 21.2% higher than the five-year average for this period. Exports now account for 87.6% of the current AAFC crop year estimate of 4.6 mmt, recently revised 1 mmt lower. This is well-ahead of the pace needed to reach this target, given that only 67% of the row-crop crop year has expired. At the same time, over the past five crop years, an average of 87.6% of crop year exports have been realized as of April, a pace that projects to crop year exports of 4.6 mmt, equal to the AAFC target.
Exports to China fell to 2,420 mt in April, the lowest volume shipped in three months. Exports to this destination plunged in January, with only 74,225 mt shipped in the January-through-April period, down from 551,101 mt in the same period last crop year and the five-year average of 401,971 mt. The two largest customers were Japan, with 16% of the total volume shipped, and the U.S. that was shipped 15.5% of the total volume. Statistics Canada tables shows shipment to 36 countries in April, which remains a concern should trade tensions escalate between the U.S. and China.
Canada's corn exports were reported at 180,622 mt in April, the largest volume shipped in four months and the second largest monthly volume shipped this crop year. Year-to-date, 797,350 mt has been exported, 10.4% higher than the same period last crop year and 18.5% higher than the five-year average. Cumulative exports account for 45.6% of the current 1.75 mmt AAFC export forecast, behind the pace needed to reach this target given that data covers the first 67% of the crop year. Over the past five years, and estimated 49.8% of total crop year exports are achieved by April, which suggests significant activity in the final months of the crop year, although this historical pace would point to total crop year exports of 1.6 mmt.
Three of the largest four customers for corn were situated in Western Europe in April, including Ireland, Spain and the United Kingdom. A total of 98,326 mt was shipped to Ireland, or 55% of the total volume of corn shipped, a country that seems to step in every second month for Canadian corn.
Canada shipped 301,364 mt of canola oil in April, the largest volume shipped in six months. This volume is up 8.4% from the same month in 2017 while year-to-date volumes are .7% below the same nine-month period in 2016/17. The largest shipments over the month were close to even with 116,317 mt of crude oil shipped to China and 117,783 mt of refined oil shipped to the United States.
Canada shipped 449,829 mt of canola meal in April, the highest monthly volume shipped this crop year, with roughly two-thirds of the volume destined for the U.S. and one-third of the volume shipped to China. This was the largest monthly volume shipped to the U.S in 12 months and likely a record monthly volume shipped to China.
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