REVEALED: The Canadian Cannabis Export Market for 2020

For the first time, export data for Canadian cannabis is made available via Prohibition Partners’ new data and insights platform for the cannabis industry: Atalis. This new data shows a huge increase in the exports of cannabis from the country in 2020, as well as a changing network of countries that are importing from established producers in Canada.

The data show that producers in Canada exported 15.6 tons of dried cannabis flower and at least 7.3 kilolitres of cannabis oils and extracts during 2020. This likely means that Canada is the single largest exporter of cannabis flower and oil in the world, ahead of the Netherlands, whose exports shrank slightly in 2020 compared to 2019. GW Pharmaceuticals in the UK likely exports more cannabinoid products than either country in the form of pharmaceuticals such as Sativex and Epidiolex.

These customs data are roughly in line with data published by Health Canada which show total value by weight for each year. Export data, which have been verified by Health Canada, show similar quantities to customs data with some exceptions, including an extra 4 kilolitres of medical cannabis oil being exported in 2020, which would bring the total to just under 11 kilolitres. The discrepancy is likely due to the manner in which exporters report their shipments and how Health Canada verifies their exports.

A Changing Network of Importers

Data which is now hosted on Atalis exclusively detail the network of countries that import medical cannabis from Canada. The data show that Israel is currently the largest importer of medical cannabis flower from Canada, and Australia remains as the primary importer of medical cannabis oil. Following closely behind is the import market in Germany, the largest European medical cannabis market. Germany imported over four tons of medical cannabis flower from Canada in 2020 and nearly five kilolitres of extracts and oil. Small amounts were sent to countries with new and growing industries such as the UK, Argentina and Malta, though how much is used by patients and how much in research is not known at this point.

As only a few large countries have established patient access to medical cannabis around the world, the market for imports remains quite concentrated, with the vast majority of products historically being shipped to Germany. Germany imported 95% of Canada’s exported cannabis flower in 2019 and while this grew by 36% in 2020, it now pales in comparison to the 10 tons of flower imported by Israel, which made up 63% of sales by weight in 2020.

Total Value

Customs data provide a measure of the value of shipments, defined by ‘values declared on export documents which usually reflect the transaction value’. As these values are left largely to the discretion of the exporter, they are not as precise a measure as the weight quantities. The total customs value of medical cannabis exports in Canada in 2020 was C$53 million (US$43 million), which is a considerable 229% increase compared to 2019. Most (83%) of this value originates from cannabis flower sales, though more oil sales likely occurred outside of these figures due to inconsistent reporting by exporters.

Virtually no cannabis was imported to Canada during 2020 according to Health Canada data, and certainly no commercial imports reached patients. A stipulation must usually be provided for permitted imports, which states that they ‘cannot be sold to provinces, territories or to medical clients’. As such, Canada’s policy on cannabis trade is a protectionist one, which seeks to incubate domestic businesses from the international market, while allowing for exports.

Competition from Abroad

As detailed in the recent European Cannabis Report, medical cannabis exporters in the established markets of Canada and the Netherlands are facing competition from an increasingly long list of exporting nations such as Uruguay, Portugal, Spain, Denmark, Australia and Lesotho, among others. In addition, regions which have historically been importing medical cannabis such as Germany and Israel are currently building out domestic production capacities. Producers seeking to import into Europe need to act strategically to be able to establish a niche in the growing markets, in terms of production costs, focusing on key product formats, navigating complex regional regulations and establishing a sales presence in relevant markets.

In order to support companies seeking to establish themselves in emerging cannabis markets, Prohibition Partners has developed Atalis, a comprehensive database for regulatory and commercial data and insights covering the global market. To receive a demo of the platform, contact the Atalis team here.

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