Issue 16-89: Exports

May 4, 2016

  • B.C. exports climbed 2.9% year-to-date to March.
  • Solid wood product shipments jumped 14.8% in the first quarter.
  • Energy product exports dropped 15.8% in the first three months of 2016.

By Destination

The value of B.C. origin exports rose 2.9% in the first quarter as a 9.5% jump in shipments to the United States and a 3.2% increase in exports to Mainland China offset declines to several other major destinations, including Japan (-12.8%), South Korea (‑1.1%), the European Union (-5.7%), Taiwan (-10.8%) and Hong Kong (-4.5%). There were a couple of other bright spots, as shipments to both India (+13.2%) and Australia (+18.0%) also saw strong growth.

By Commodity

Shipments of solid wood products continued to rise, recording a 14.8% jump in the first quarter, compared to the same period a year earlier. With the exception of logs, which experienced a 19.0% drop in exports, all other major wood product categories posted double-digit increases in exports.

B.C.'s solid wood product exports continue to trend up

Elsewhere in the forest sector, pulp and paper product shipments dipped 3.0% in the first quarter. The entire decline was due to a drop in exports of paper products, as shipments of pulp edged up 2.5%. Exports of newsprint slumped 42.0%, while other paper and paperboard shipments fell 14.2%. There was a 15.2% increase in exports of other pulp and paper products, which includes waste and scrap and manufactured paper products.

The value of B.C.’s energy product exports fell 15.8% in the first quarter, compared to the first three months of 2015. A 26.2% plunge in the value of coal shipments was the main contributor to the decline, although “other” energy product exports (i.e., excluding coal, natural gas and electricity) also experienced a precipitous decline (-29.4%). Lower prices for coal contributed to the drop, but volumes shipped also fell (-7.3%). On the positive side, there were significant increases in the value of shipments of both natural gas (+8.9%) and electricity (+12.2%).

Exports of metallic mineral products climbed 3.7% in the first quarter. Growth in shipments of copper ores and concentrates (+16.2%), unwrought aluminum (+55.4%) and unwrought lead (+19.2%) more than offset declines in exports of unwrought zinc (-13.0%), molybdenum ores and concentrates (-83.4%), zinc ores and concentrates (‑100.0%) and other metallic mineral products (-69.9%). The substantial jump in exports of unwrought aluminum is almost certainly the result of completion of work on the Rio Tinto Alcan aluminum smelter in Kitimat and its return to full production. The modernized smelter has significantly greater production capacity, which should result in a large increase in aluminum exports throughout 2016.

There was a 6.8% boost in shipments of machinery and equipment in the first quarter, buoyed by a 73.8% jump in exports of motor vehicles and parts. Other commodities that experienced strong growth in exports in the first quarter included agriculture and food products (+11.2%) and fish (+8.6%). At the other end of the scale, shipments of fabricated metal products (-2.0%) and chemicals and chemical products (-1.0%) 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.

The value of B.C.’s commodity exports dropped 3.1% in March with both exports to the United States (-2.5%) and the rest of the world (-3.8%) falling. Much of the decline was due to a 5.7% slump in shipments of forestry products and building and packaging materials. There were also significant reductions in exports of metal ores and non-metallic minerals (-9.2%), farm, fishing and intermediate food products (-6.7%) and energy products (-2.4%).

The decline in shipments to the United States was mainly driven by a 4.9% decrease in exports of forestry products and building and packaging materials, as well as a 12.4% drop in exports of energy products, which was primarily due to a reduction in shipments of natural gas. For shipments to the rest of the world, forestry products and building and packaging materials again were one of the main contributors to the slump, falling 6.6%, along with metal ores and non-metallic minerals, which saw exports fall 9.7%. Contrary to the United States, exports of energy products to the rest of the world actually experienced strong growth in March, rising 9.2%. This was due to a jump in shipments of coal.

More information about British Columbia exports is available.

Did you know?

Softwood lumber comprised almost 19% of B.C.’s total value of exports in the first quarter of 2016. This is up two percentage points from the same period a year earlier.