Goal 6

Firms Participating In Export Trade - Deep Dive

The number of Nova Scotia firms participating in export trade will have increased by 50 per cent.


Firms Participating In Export Trade

The industries with the largest numbers of international merchandise exporting establishments in Nova Scotia are goods producing industries — mainly manufacturing and agriculture and fishing — as well as service industries that participate in both wholesale and retail trade.

IndustryNumber of Exporting Establishments
Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting95
Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction9
Wholesale trade258
Retail trade86
Transportation and warehousing43
Information and cultural industries7
Finance and insurance7
Real estate and rental and leasing15
Professional, scientific and technical services48
Management of companies and enterprises16
Administrative and support, waste management and remediation services13
Educational services9
Health care and social assistance5
Arts, entertainment and recreation9
Accommodation and food services6
Other services (except public administration)14
Public administration6

The manufacturing industry accounted for 67 per cent of Nova Scotia’s merchandise exports in 2017. It also produced $11.1 million dollars in exports per establishment — the largest value of exports per exporting establishment. Wholesale trade accounted for another 19 per cent of the province’s merchandise exports, while agriculture and fishing accounted for 8 per cent. Combined, these three industries generated 94 per cent of Nova Scotia’s merchandise exports and represent 67 per cent of the province’s exporting establishments.

Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting3.986
Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction8.244
Wholesale trade3.637
Retail trade0.134
Transportation and warehousing0.758
Information and cultural industries0.067
Finance and insurance6.467
Real estate and rental and leasing0.598
Professional, scientific and technical services0.334
Management of companies and enterprises4.123
Administrative and support, waste management and remediation services0.209
Educational services0.358
Health care and social assistance0.342
Arts, entertainment and recreation0.029
Accommodation and food services2.881
Other services (except public administration)0.250
Public administration0.177


Digging further into the manufacturing sector, food manufacturing had the largest number of merchandise exporting establishments.

Food manufacturing76
Beverage and tobacco product manufacturing10
Textile mills3
Textile product mills6
Clothing manufacturing3
Wood product manufacturing17
Paper manufacturing8
Printing and related support activities8
Chemical manufacturing15
Plastics and rubber products manufacturing26
Non-metallic mineral product manufacturing5
Fabricated metal product manufacturing26
Machinery manufacturing24
Computer and electronic product manufacturing14
Electrical equipment appliance and component manufacturing5
Transportation equipment manufacturing16
Furniture and related product manufacturing6
Miscellaneous manufacturing20

Two of the province’s significant export industries stand out in the value of exports per exporting establishment by manufacturing sub-sector – pulp and paper manufacturing and tire manufacturing. Both show significantly above average export value per establishment.

Sub-sectorMillions of Dollars
Food manufacturing9.705
Beverage and tobacco product manufacturing0.078
Textile mills9.095
Textile product mills4.909
Clothing manufacturing1.981
Wood product manufacturing5.243
Paper manufacturing50.176
Printing and related support activities0.033
Chemical manufacturing5.826
Plastics and rubber products manufacturing59.005
Non-metallic mineral product manufacturing3.400
Fabricated metal product manufacturing1.194
Machinery manufacturing3.824
Computer and electronic product manufacturing7.101
Electrical equipment appliance and component manufacturing5.319
Transportation equipment manufacturing3.870
Furniture and related product manufacturing0.340
Miscellaneous manufacturing0.166

Of the province’s 970 establishments participating in international merchandise exports in 2017, over two-thirds exported to a single country. However, the 303 establishments that exported to two or more countries accounted for 77 per cent of the total value of merchandise exports and had a much higher export value per establishment.

GroupNumber of Establishments
1 partner country667
2 or more partner countries303


Looking at the province’s largest merchandise export destinations, 703 establishments exported to the United States in 2016, accounting for 70 per cent of the value of merchandise exports. Exports to the United States also had the largest value per establishment. Though Nova Scotian exports have been largely destined for the United States, there has been significant growth in the number of firms exporting to, and the value of exports destined for, Asian markets. From 2010 to 2015, the value of merchandise exports from Nova Scotia to Asian markets has more than doubled, displacing Europe as the province’s second largest export market. In particular, firms exporting to China, Japan, and South Korea have steadily grown.

Nova Scotia's 10 Largest Export Destinations, 2017


Value of Exports (x1,000)

Number of Establishments *

Value per Establishment (x1,000)

United States












South Korea








United Kingdom




Hong Kong
















*Note that the sum of the exporting establishments column exceeds the provincial total of 953. This is because some establishments export to two or more countries.

GroupValue (Thousands of Dollars)
1 partner country1696
2 or more partner countries12343

Changes to the indicator, baseline, or target:

  • We were not able to replicate the baseline number quoted in the Report of the Nova Scotia Commission on Building our New Economy.
  • A new data source has since become available from Statistics Canada, which was adopted here.
  • This new data source measures the number of business establishments participating in international merchandise exports. Note that an establishment is not the same as a business. A business can own multiple establishments.
  • The change in indicator results in a new, higher baseline, but the target is still assumed to require 50% growth over the baseline.