State exports fall dramatically in first half of 2020

Posted on Aug 11, 2020 :: Insight on Manufacturing, Web Exclusive
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Posted by of Insight Publications

Wisconsin exports dropped during the first six months of 2020 as businesses dealt with the effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

According to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Wisconsin companies exported $9.74 billion in goods from January to June 2020 — an 11.3 percent drop compared to the same period of 2019. If those numbers stay at the same pace for the remainder of 2020, exports would be down $2.45 billion for the full year and down $3.5 billion from 2018 levels.

Wisconsin’s exports have been hit hard since April, dropping 22.4 percent in that month compared to 2019, 25 percent in May and 18.7 percent in June.

The state’s exports to its top trading partners are down with exports to Canada — the state’s No. 1 export market — decreasing 15.9 percent, while exports to Mexico fell 32.2 percent.

While Wisconsin exports to other countries decreased, shipments to China increased 15.8 percent, or about $100 million, from 2019 levels.

Wisconsin imports are also down sharply, dropping 10.4 percent for the first six months of the year or $1.4 billion.

The Port of Green Bay is also seeing these trends play out. After a strong start to the shipping season, tonnage tapered off in July with just less than 170,000 tons of cargo moving through during the month. For the 2020 shipping season, which began in mid-March, 907,697 tons of cargo has gone through the port, down about 10 percent from a year ago.

“Through June we were pretty much on pace with last year, which was a very good year for the Port of Green Bay,” said Dean Haen, port director. “The decline in July was primarily due to drops in imports of petroleum products and salt.”

June saw nearly 50,000 tons of domestic petroleum products imported to the port. That dropped to less than 9,000 tons in July. Salt imports accounted for more than 106,000 tons in June, while there were no salt shipments in July. On a positive note, cement imports are up 28 percent from the same period in 2019, and wood pulp and forest products are up 24 percent year-to-date.

“This has certainly been a difficult year to accurately forecast shipping levels,” Haen said. “The impact of COVID-19 is being felt throughout the Great Lakes and beyond. But we remain cautiously optimistic for a good finish for the remainder of the 2020 shipping season.”