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Sask. export growth ahead of the curve

Saskatchewan is ahead of the national trend in export growth with a 36.3 percent increase in exports in March 2008 over March 2007, compared with a 6.4 percent decline in Canadian exports over the same period. Agricultural exports play a large role in this increase; they were up 75 percent in March.

May 14, 2008  By The Star Pheonix

May 14, 2008

REGINASaskatchewan is bucking the national trend in
export growth, with a 36.3 per cent increase in exports in March 2008 over
March 2007, compared with a 6.4 per cent decline in Canadian exports during the
same period.

With exports totalling $2.2
billion in March, the province saw the highest percentage increase in export
trade in
Canada, well ahead of Alberta, where exports increased 20.4 per
cent over March 2007.


By contrast, Manitoba experienced a decrease of 14.2 per
cent during the same 12-month period, while B.C. exports dropped by 25.7 per

In fact, the first three
months of 2008 have been extremely strong for the province's exporters, as
exports totalled $6.3 billion, an increase of 36.4 per cent during the first
quarter of 2007.

This was also the highest
growth rate among the provinces.

Brad Michnik, executive
director of trade development for the Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership
(STEP), said the reason Saskatchewan is outperforming its provincial cousins in
export trade isn't hard to figure out.

"Why are we bucking
this trend?" Michnik said. "It's food and energy. They're in high
demand around the world. Those are two strengths of the
Saskatchewan economy."

Indeed, the trade
statistics compiled by Statistics Canada, which were released Tuesday, showed
mining, oil and natural gas exports were up 48 per cent March over March.

Agricultural exports, along
with forestry, fishing and hunting exports, were up 75 per cent in March,
thanks largely to higher prices for agricultural commodities.

The only fly in the
ointment was the 20 per cent decline in manufacturing exports March over March.

STEP president and CEO Lionel LaBelle said the decline in
manufacturing exports may not be as bad as it looks.

"It's not a
negative," said LaBelle, who took over the top job at STEP April 28,
succeeding former
CEO Dale Botting, who was named deputy minister of enterprise
and innovation in December.

LaBelle, who was the founding
president of the Saskatchewan Ethanol Development Council (now Saskatchewan
Biofuels Development Council), said many manufacturers are simply finding
markets closer to home.

"If Saskatchewan is booming, does internal
consumption of goods and services affect our ability to export? In some ways,
it does."

He said some Saskatchewan agricultural implement
manufacturers are "maxed out" and can't supply the export market
because of domestic demand for farm equipment.

"We have some
(contraction) in the export market and we have to smile because the
(manufacturer) is doing the best he's ever done," LaBelle said.


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