The Consumer Price Index for August 2015 indicates that the costs of goods and services were point six percent lower last month than for the same period in 2014. The slight decrease is the result of diminishing fuel prices which offset the rising cost of some food items, as well as the cost of home rentals which went up by point six percent on average. While the cost of meat, including beef, pork and eggs were up, the cost per pound of red kidney beans, cooking oil and shortening were down insignificantly. The External Trade Bulletin indicates that Belize imported a total of a hundred and fifty-four million dollars in goods, a two point three percent decline when compared to August 2014. Export, on the other hand, stood at thirty-three million dollars, a fifty-five percent decrease from the same month a year ago. The plummet reflected a shift in the timing of sugar shipments. On a brighter note, citrus exports were up again, doubling from four to eight million dollars due to strong orange concentrate sales.
Monthly economic statistics from the Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB) say that while Belizeans are paying less for goods on average this year over last year, trade has slowed down.
Belizeans paid 0.6 percent less in prices, due to decreases in prices for fuel and LPG or butane against increases for some food items and home rentals.
For the first eight months of this year, an inflation rate of negative 0.9 percent was recorded.
Premium and regular gasoline are down by about 19 percent and 22 percent, respectively, while
diesel prices fell sharply by 28 percent. The decline in fuel prices was the major contributing factor to a 6.3 percent decrease in the “Transport” index.
Prices for “Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages”, on average, rose marginally by 0.2 percent. At the individual product level, increases were observed in the prices of beef, pork, and eggs. These were offset by lower prices for Red Kidney beans, cooking oil and shortening.
The category of “Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels”, declined by 0.1 percent, but home rental prices were up by 0.6 percent on average. In Dangriga and Punta Gorda Town this increase was the most pronounced, as rental costs rose by 2.7 percent in both municipalities.
Higher rental prices were overshadowed, however, by a drop in the price of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), which saw the average cost of a hundred pound cylinder fall steeply, from $117 in August 2014 to $90 in August 2015.
While most municipalities recorded a decrease in consumer prices during the month of August 2015, Dangriga and Punta Gorda recorded inflation rates of 1.9 and 0.9 percent, respectively. The marked difference between these and the other municipalities was due to the fact that these two locations saw the highest increases in home rental prices during the month, while little or no increase in rentals was recorded in other municipalities. Orange Walk Town saw virtually no change in prices, on average.
Meanwhile during the month of August 2015, Belize imported $154.8 million in goods, falling by $3.7 million or 2.3 percent versus the $158.5 million imported in August 2014.
Imports of ‘Food and Live Animals’ decreased by $5 million; while ‘Machinery and Transport Equipment’ grew by $5 million to $33 million, due to increased purchases of diesel vehicles and various computer devices.
Purchases of ‘Manufactured Goods’ rose by $3.5 million, due to an increase in imports of construction supplies during the month. Goods destined for the ‘Commercial Free Zones’ and ‘Export Processing Zones’ both recorded declines in comparison to August 2014. The former dropped by $5 million, as purchases of clothing items decreased from twelve months ago, while the latter fell by $1 million, due to reduced importation of shrimp feed.
For the first eight months of 2015, $1.3 billion in goods were imported, representing a 3.6 percent or $46.6 million increase over the same period last year. Imports of ‘Machinery and Transport Equipment’, ‘Manufactured Goods’ and goods going to the ‘Commercial Free Zones’ led the way, while $47 million less was spent on ‘Mineral Fuels and Lubricants’, although the quantity of fuel imported grew by almost one third during the period.
Domestic exports for August 2015 totaled $33.9 million, a 55.4 percent or a $42.2 million decrease from the same month in 2014. Sugar sales accounted for the largest share of this decline, as exports fell from $34 million to $1 million.
This steep drop in comparison to last August reflected a shift in the timing of sugar shipments, such that only bagged sugar was exported in August 2015, while a large bulk sugar shipment is expected in September. Earnings from crude petroleum dropped sharply by $8 million, from $12 million during August 2014 to $4 million in August 2015, largely due to lower world market prices.
Marine exports fell from $12 million to $7 million, owing to reduced farm shrimp sales, compared to the same month last year. On a positive note, citrus exports resurged during the month of August 2015, with exports doubling from $4 million in last August to $8 million, due to strong orange concentrate sales.
For January to August, exports totaled $401.9 million, a 15 percent or $70.9 million drop from the same eight months last year. Crude petroleum exports fell steeply during the period, from $77 million to $28 million, as less petroleum was exported and at a much lower price than in 2014.
Despite the stronger performance during the month of August 2015, citrus concentrate sales declined by over $9 during the first eight months of 2015, from $80 million to $71 million.
Exports of bananas, on the other hand, were up by $4.5 million from $62 million to over $66 million during the first nine months of the year.
Southern consumers see price hikes even as inflation eases nationally
Consumer prices were down substantially for the first 8 months of 2015, according to the latest report released by the Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB), which reports an inflation rate of negative 0.9%, contrasting with the hike in inflation of 1.4% for the first 8 months of 2014.
Last August recorded an inflation rate of 0.9%, but the SIB says that during the month of August 2015, prices of goods and services purchased by Belizean households were, on average, 0.6 percent lower than in August 2014.
This, it said, was attributable to decreases in the cost of fuel at the pumps and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), which offset increases in the cost of some food items and home rentals.
“All three types of fuel saw a considerable drop in prices compared to August 2014, with premium and regular gasoline down by about 19 percent and 22 percent, respectively, while diesel prices fell sharply by 28 percent. The decline in fuel prices was the major contributing factor to a 6.3 percent decrease in the ‘Transport’ index,” the SIB explained.
It added that increases were observed in the prices of beef, pork, and eggs. These were offset by lower prices for red kidney beans, cooking oil and shortening.
While nationally, the inflation rate was negative – meaning that consumer prices were down overall in Belize – this was not the case in Dangriga and Punta Gorda, where prices were up for August by 1.9% and 0.9%, respectively.
“The marked difference between these and the other municipalities was due to the fact that these two locations saw the highest increases in home rental prices during the month, while little or no increase in rentals was recorded in other municipalities. Orange Walk Town saw virtually no change in prices, on average,” the SIB said.
The SIB elaborated, saying that although home rental prices were up by only 0.6 percent on average, there were pronounced increases in the southern municipalities of Dangriga and Punta Gorda Town, where rental costs rose by 2.7 percent in both places.
The SIB notes, though, that the escalation in the cost of rent was offset by a plunge in the price of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), down from $117 for the 100-pound cylinder in August 2014 to $90 in this August.