Issue 16-230: Exports

December 6, 2016

  • B.C. exports climbed 6.0% year-to-date to October.
  • Pulp and paper exports fell 10.7% in the first ten months of 2015.
  • Energy product exports rose 7.0% year-to-date to October.

By Destination

Year-to-date to October, B.C. origin exports rose 6.0% compared to the same ten-month period in 2015. An 11.1% jump in shipments to the United States, B.C.’s largest trading partner, drove much of the increase, although there was also strong growth in exports to South Korea (+3.3%), the European Union (+6.2%) and India (+20.7%). The overall rise in the value of exports was tempered by declines to other major destinations, including Mainland China (-2.2%), Japan (-0.4%), Taiwan (-1.5%), Australia (-8.0%) and Hong Kong (‑2.3%).

By Commodity

The forest sector continues to experience mixed success in exports, with shipments of solid wood products recording a healthy increase of 19.7%, while exports of pulp and paper products have dropped 10.7%, including a 42.3% plunge in shipments of newsprint.

The value of pulp and paper exports has been trending down in 2016 


B.C.’s exports of softwood lumber are up 20.2%, due largely to a 40.2% surge in shipments to the United States. The expiry of the Softwood Lumber Agreement, which has temporarily given Canadian exporters access to the American market without having to pay export taxes, is likely responsible for the jump in shipments. However, there have also been increases in exports of other solid wood products, including an 18.3% rise in shipments of selected value-added wood products and a 28.5% leap in exports of other panel products (excluding softwood plywood and veneer).

The value of exports of energy products increased 7.0% in the first ten months of 2016, compared to the same period a year earlier. There was particularly strong growth in shipments of natural gas (+14.1%), but the value of coal exports also climbed (+5.1%) as well as other energy products (+8.2%). Only electricity bucked the trend, with the value of exports declining 3.7%. The drop was due to lower prices, as the quantity of electricity transmitted across the border actually increased 6.1%.

There was an 8.8% boost in shipments of metallic mineral products in the January to October period, compared to the same ten months in 2015. This despite the fact that exports of copper ores and concentrates, which comprise about 57% of the category, dropped 7.3%. The main driver of the overall increase was a phenomenal 447.7% increase in shipments of unwrought aluminum, which was the result of the upgraded Rio Tinto Alcan aluminum smelter in Kitimat ramping up to full production. The only other category of metallic mineral products to see growth in exports was unwrought lead (+28.0%).

Exports of agriculture and food products (+5.9%) and fish (+14.4%) experienced strong growth year-to-date to October. Shipments of machinery and equipment were relatively flat (+0.2%), while exports of chemicals and chemical products (-7.2%) and fabricated metal products (-3.8%) fell.

Seasonally Adjusted Exports

Seasonal adjustment provides a means of making month-to-month comparisons by removing the periodic seasonal fluctuations that occur. Variations from normal seasonal patterns are revealed in the seasonally adjusted series.

There was a 5.2% increase in the value of B.C.’s commodity exports in October as strong growth in shipments of energy products (+27.6%) more than offset declines in forestry products and building and packaging materials (-3.2%) and industrial machinery, equipment and parts (-14.6%).

Exports increased both to the United States (+1.0%) and the rest of the world (+10.6%). Strong growth in shipments of farm, fishing and intermediate food products (+13.4%), energy products (+3.9%) and consumer goods (+6.6%) were the main drivers of growth in exports to the U.S., offsetting significant reductions in exports of industrial machinery, equipment and parts (-18.2%) and forestry products and building and packaging materials (-2.4%).  For the rest of the world, a 55.4% jump in shipments of energy products was the primary reason for the strong growth overall.

Did You Know?

The recent signing of a free trade agreement with the European Union should boost exports to that region; however, British Columbia is the source of only 4 percent of Canada’s exports to the EU.