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Province's exports looking better than forecast

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Strong production levels at Winnipeg’s Boeing plant will help the aerospace industry’s export numbers.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Strong production levels at Winnipeg’s Boeing plant will help the aerospace industry’s export numbers. Photo Store

It's shaping up to be a better year than expected for Manitoba exporters, according to the latest forecast from Export Development Canada.

The federal agency says it now expects Manitoba companies to export about $13.8 billion worth of goods this year. That would be a hefty 12 per cent increase from the $12.3 billion worth of export shipments in 2012.

In its previous forecast released last November, EDC had forecast a seven per cent increase to $13.1 billion for 2013.

"It's good news almost all the way around," EDC chief economist Peter Hall said in an telephone interview Thursday from Vancouver, where he was delivering the latest B.C. export forecast. "All industry sectors will see growth at or close to double digits."

Hall, who will be in Winnipeg May 30 to discuss the latest Manitoba forecast with local manufacturers and exporters, said Manitoba's diversified export base is positioned to capitalize on a U.S. economic rebound this year.

He said rising sales of items such as buses, aerospace parts and agriculture equipment should help to fuel a projected 10 per cent growth in exports for the province's transportation sector.

In a written summary of its newest forecast, the EDC says shipments of buses grew by a "stunning" 43 per cent in 2012, led by industry leaders such as New Flyer. And they're well-poised to continue their upward trajectory as the US. economic recovery accelerates.

The aerospace industry also will be buoyed by rising sales of aircraft parts by Boeing Winnipeg, as production of the 787 Dreamliner ramps up, it adds.

But the real star of the show this year will be agri-food exports, with projected growth of 17 per cent instead of the 14 per cent forecast back in November.

"Manitoba farmers delivered a spectacular harvest in the 2012/13 crop year, with wheat and coarse grain production up almost 50 per cent and oilseeds rising 20 per cent," the agency says.

"Grain prices are expected to climb down from soaring heights seen in 2012 as the effects of last year's U.S. drought subsides, but prices will not fall too far as they remain supported by strong demand from emerging markets and for biofuel production."

One part of the agri-food sector that won't see any improvement this year is meat exports, it says, where sales are expected to remain essentially flat because of weaker pork prices.

Hall said the industrial sector is another sector that's expected to do better than was first thought. In November, the agency was projecting a modest decline in export sales after a steep decline in 2012. Now it's projecting growth of 12 per cent for this year, thanks in part to production ramping up at HBM&S's new Lalor Mine near Flin Flon.

Export sales of machinery and equipment are also expected to expand by nine per cent this year, with the biggest lift coming from agricultural machinery as high food prices enable farmers to boost investment globally.

Energy exports are expected to rise by a healthy eight per cent. The EDC says a key contributor to the growth will be rising volumes of crude oil exports, which are projected to climb by five per cent despite modest price declines over the forecast period.

With the Wuskwatim hydroelectric station now fully online, exports of electricity should also see solid gains, even though prices have been somewhat weak.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 17, 2013 B8

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