04 November 2005

A trading nation - Newfoundland and Labrador trade with the world

Export Development Canada [EDC] predicts that exports from this province will fall by 5% in 2005 from 2004, with a forecast for further declines through the years beyond.

Energy accounted for 52% of exports in 2004 and is expected to decline by 6.7%. EDC forecasts oil prices to average between US$55 and US$65 per barrel in 2006. The forecast also notes that while high oil prices will continue to benefit the province, a shift in markets from some oil from foreign to domestic Canadian markets will reduce the export value. Domestic exports are obviously not included in the forecast since it is a prediction of non-Canadian export activity, but EDC is careful to note that this is merely an accounting issue, not a signal of any weakening of the provinces oil and gas exports overall. Export of refined crude from Come by Chance is reportedly down 10% over the same period in 2004.

The value of fish exports, which make up the bulk of the provinces agri-foods exports, is expected to fall to 0.2% of exports, down from 22.6% of total exports in 2004.

As EDC notes: "The drop in 2005 is driven mostly by lower prices; however, volumes are slightly lower as well. Crab prices have weakened considerably since 2004. Export volumes will be down this year as well, with a slight reduction in quota and a late start to the year.

In 2006, crab prices are expected to rebound, with volumes also set to increase. Shrimp prices remain low as they have for some time now. The availability of shrimp is good -– shrimp landings were very favourable last year and the stock appears healthy. We expect landings in 2005 and 2006 to be on par with last year'’s performance and our base case scenario has prices holding steady in 2005 and increasing slightly in 2006.

There remains a downside risk in that if prices fall any further some fishers may choose to leave shrimp in the water. After the large drop in exports anticipated for 2005, EDC Economics expects fish and fish products exports to rise 8% in 2006. The Canada-US exchange rate continues to be a key forecast risk since most of the province'’s seafood exports are priced in US dollars." [Paragraphing changed from original]

On forestry, it is worth quoting EDC forecasts in their entirety, especially in light of the recent provincial government subsidy to Abitibi Consolidated.

"Newsprint exports for the first 7 months of 2005 are down 4% over the same period in 2004 even though prices increased 9% during the same time frame. In addition to sluggish sales, newsprint producers face higher energy and input costs. Fibre costs are up, due in part to a 20% harvest reduction in Quebec, which impacts Newfoundland'’s ability to source fibre.

This year [2005] has become a critical year for the industry in Newfoundland as Abitibi, a key industry producer, announced in July that it was closing a mill in Stephenville, effective in October. Abitibi also announced the closure of one 60,000-tonne machine in Grand Falls-Windsor, leaving one machine in operation. Abitibi is planning to take out 500,000 tonnes or 4% of its North American capacity by the end of 2005 in an attempt to push up prices, and half of that value rests in its Stephenville and Grand Falls-Windsor operations.

EDC Economics estimates this could reduce Newfoundland'’s newsprint output by as much as one third. There will be some newsprint reduction taking place in 2005, but most of the volume decrease is expected to happen in 2006. As a result, forestry exports are set to decline by 3% in 2005 followed by a much bigger drop of 18% in 2006." [Paragraphing changed from original. Emphasis added]

Export and import statistics from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador add some colour and context to the EDC assessment.

The United States was the destination for most local exports, amounting to $2.7 billion in 2004 and includes exports of oil, refined petroleum products, newsprint and fish. That is down from $3.2 billion in 2003 and a peak of $4.1 billion in 2002.

China, Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom round out the top five export destinations. Ireland doesn't make the top 10 list presented by the provincial government.

Import information may surprise some people. Iraq is the number one source of imports, by dollar, coming to about $1.082 billion in 2004. This is entirely comprised of oil that is refined in the province and exported, primarily to the United States.

Russia, the Republic of Korea, the United States and the united Kingdom round out the top five sources of imports, with Russia accounting for almost half a billion Canadian dollars worth of imported goods and services in 2004.

Overall, Newfoundland and Labrador has a trade surplus with destinations outside Canada. The province imported slightly more than $2.5 billion of goods and services in 2004, compared to total exports of more than $4.5 billion.