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Canadian Ag, Food Exporters Fared Well in 2020: FCC Report

Despite a global contraction in agriculture exports, 2020 was a relatively good year for Canadian agriculture and food exporters, according to Farm Credit Canada’s (FCC) latest trade report.

Released Tuesday, the report shows Canada had the highest year-over-year increase for agriculture commodity exports at 13.8%, while all agriculture exporting countries combined saw commodity exports contract by 9%, largely due to the impact of pandemic throughout most of 2020.

For agriculture commodities, Canada’s exporting success in 2020 came from oilseeds (mainly canola) at 32.2% of total Canadian ag exports, while cereals comprised 28%. Of all cereals, wheat was Canada’s largest export, accounting for 80.9% of total cereal exports last year. Canada has counted among the top three wheat exporters in the world over the last 10 years.

With 5.5% of the world’s total commodity exports, Canada was the world’s fifth-largest exporter, a position it has held since 2012. The U.S. continued as the world’s largest supplier of commodities, followed by Netherlands, China and Brazil.

On the food side, Canada has not yet cracked the top 10 exporters of processed food products. However, Canada has gained ground since 2011, moving from 16th to the 11th largest food exporter. The US has maintained its leading role since 2012, followed by Germany, Netherlands, France, Brazil, Italy, China, Belgium, Spain and Indonesia.

Compared to the significant global contraction in commodity exports, total food exports weren’t as badly hit by pandemic disruptions, declining only by 3.7%. Nonetheless, growth in total food exports over the past 10 years has been much slower, with average annual growth of less than 1%.

"Canada’s agriculture and food industry has shown resilience during these challenging times and has the potential to emerge from this pandemic even stronger, as our producers, agriculture manufacturers and food processors begin to recover from the disruption caused by the pandemic,” said J.P. Gervais, FCC chief economist, in releasing this year’s trade report.

“That’s not to say there aren’t challenges on the road ahead,” he said. “The value of the Canadian dollar is always a big factor in determining our trade competitiveness and access to markets can sometimes be rocked by geopolitical tensions or supply chain disruptions, such as we’ve seen with the pandemic.”

Gervais said there are many factors at play that will determine Canada’s future export success, such as market access, economic health of key importers, weather disruptions or other challenges in global logistics or transportation.

“Beyond currency values, world population growth, higher purchasing power in emerging markets and new trade agreements are also key factors in potentially creating more opportunities for Canada to increase exports,” he said. “By tapping into our competitive advantages in natural resources, innovation and a stellar food safety reputation, Canada has an opportunity to fortify and strengthen its position as a major agriculture and food exporter.”

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