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New Brunswick exports grew throughout pandemic

January 13, 2021   by Clara Pasieka

New Brunswick now has more exporters than it did prior to the pandemic, according to a new report from Statistics Canada.

Led by New Brunswick, up 8.8 per cent compared with February, all Atlantic provinces but Nova Scotia had more exporters than before the pandemic, StatCan states in the report.

Saint John also took the title of the only census metropolitan area in the country that increased its exports in the period from Oct. 2019 to Oct. 2020.

Claire Ephestion, development officer of Export and International Trade for Women in Business New Brunswick, called the statistics “encouraging”.

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“The pandemic was a real shock for all markets, strategies and distribution chains,” she said.

According to the report, manufacturing and wholesale trade saw some of the sharpest declines in Canada on the whole in terms of number of exporters.

After the period of doubt and intense stress for many businesses, it was time to think about the future, Ephestion said, and that meant adapting to technology.

Ephestion said manufacturers had to concentrate their efforts on direct sales to consumers when their usual customers (distributors and retailers), in many cases were experiencing difficulties, including closures, she said.

For many, it came down to a shift from business-to-business to business-to-consumer in an attempt to compensate for decreases in wholesale sales, she said, ultimately allowing a new kind of growth.

The rise in e-commerce led to many companies delivering their products for the first time beyond the province, the Maritimes and even Canada.

Exporters may be anything from a huge manufacturing business to a sole entrepreneur operating a cosmetics product business.

Many Women in Business clients started to export for the first time this year, said Ephestion. Some participated in online sessions designed to help female entrepreneurs take their businesses into markets in other countries.

Alicia Phillips, CEO of Fredericton-based Educated Beards, which makes and now exports men’s grooming products, told the Times & Transcript, her company entered the U.S. market for the first time in 2020.

“I grew up here feeling like we were five years behind out west,” said Philips, “But now there is no place I’d rather be as a CEO.”

She credits many organizations in New Brunswick that helped her business take the next steps, including Women in Business NB, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Planet Hatch and Ignite Fredericton, adding that on the whole she has been seeing more female entrepreneurs at sessions she has attended this year. Help for these organizations gave her the courage and insight that allowed her business to grow, she said.

Philips said her company was fortunate that they have been able to build on relationships formed at U.S. trade shows in early 2020 before the pandemic hit.

The number of exporters in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec are still below pre-pandemic levels.

In 2019-20, in the period ending Mar 31, 2020, ACOA and the four Atlantic provincial governments approved more than $7 million for 24 projects to support export growth in 10 strategic sectors, said Sharon Stanford-Rutter, communications director for ACOA – New Brunswick. The value of Atlantic Canada’s export goods increased to a then-high of $28.7 billion, she said.

The 2020-21 reports will reveal the value of export goods for the period covering the majority of the pandemic.

The Atlantic region sits significantly below Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta in terms of number of exporters, but has more exporters than either Saskatchewan or Manitoba.

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By Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL


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