Export Development Canada is predicting two years of "spectacular" growth in exports for Nova Scotia thanks to a lower Canadian dollar, a stronger U.S. economy and a new-found Chinese appetite for the province's seafood.
"We are seeing spectacular growth compared to the rest of the country," said Peter Hall, chief economist for the federal Crown corporation which lends to Canadian exporters.
Hall was speaking Tuesday at a meeting of the Halifax Partnership. He predicts agri-food exports — which make up 40 per cent of the province's total exports — will grow by nine per cent this year and five per cent in 2017.
Increase in lobster demand
"Raw fishing products [exported to China] have gone from almost nothing 10 years ago to a $100 million business. When you add processing, that's another $100 million," he explained.
Lobster sales play a huge role.
"The Chinese middle class is growing by Canadian population every year. That increase in wealth is increasing their appetite for things that we have in Canada that are of a higher value. There is an exponential increase in demand for lobster in China."
Chinese coming to Nova Scotia
Chinese companies are also moving into Nova Scotia. The best known example is the 2014 purchase of Capital Seafoods in Eastern Passage by Zoneco, better known in China as Zhangzidao.
Today, the plant is a bustling operation that employs 60 people. On Tuesday, workers were scrambling to ship an order of lobster tails for cruise ships sailing out of Florida.
"How busy? I started at 2 a.m. yesterday morning and I got home at seven o'clock last night — that's how busy we are," said supervisor Peter Stoddart.
Most of its product, however, is flown to China.
'The Chinese model'
Fish broker Chris Meyers of West Fish Canada, in Dartmouth, predicts years of export growth because of the Chinese. He is not surprised to see Chinese companies moving into the Province.
"It is the Chinese model to learn a product, deal with it and move further up the [supply] chain. That's why they are buying stations here," Myers told CBC News.
"It's also a frustration with logistics, because when you put it into other people's hands you don't know the real reasons why the product isn't making it to market on time."
Stats Can reporting growth
So far, the predictions of strong export growth are borne from the most recent data from Statistics Canada. It reported a 16 per cent increase in the value of the province's fish and farm products in the first three months of 2016.
Export growth is also forecast to continue for Nova Scotia's three Michelin tire plants — thanks to U.S. truck sales. Export Development Canada predicts 10 per cent growth in the motor vehicle and parts sector this year.
The province's third-largest export sector is forestry. This year it's expected to see the value drop before a rebound in 2017.
Impact on lumber sales
Hall said U.S. tariffs on newsprint will be largely responsible for a four per cent decline in the value of exports. In 2017, he sees a seven per cent increase due to lumber sales.
A low Canadian dollar and a rebound in the U.S. housing market is already having an impact on lumber sales.
"We are seeing more lumber shipments to the U.S. — into New England, but also down to North Carolina, South Carolina and all the way down to Florida," said Joel MacLagan, of EACAN Timber.