External Trade Bulletin

IMPORTS DOWN 6.7%, EXPORTS DOWN 12.7%

IMPORTS

MARCH: During the month of March 2016, Belize imported goods valued at $163.4 million, falling by 6.7 percent or $11.7 million from the $175.1 million imported in March of 2015.

The ‘Mineral Fuels and Lubricants’ category was the primary contributor to the month’s decline in imports, dropping by a substantial $10 million, almost half of what was reported for the comparable month in 2015. The ongoing trend of lower purchasing price for fuel, combined with the fact that no premium fuel was imported, drove the month’s significant decrease. Likewise, imports of ‘Manufactured Goods’ and ‘Other Manufactures’ fell notably within the month, by $5.5 million and $2 million, respectively. While the latter was the result of reduced imports of steel, carton boxes and cement, the former was due to reduced purchases of jewelry and prefabricated steel buildings. Additionally, owing largely to the continued drop in shrimp feed imports, goods destined for the ‘Export Processing Zones’ fell by $1 million for the month.

On the other hand, ‘Machinery and Transport Equipment’ accounted for a quarter of the total imports at $40 million, as increased purchases of vehicles and gas turbines drove that category up by almost $5 million over that reported for March 2015. Furthermore, goods meant for the ‘Commercial Free Zones’ and the ‘Food and Live Animals’ category each grew by $2 million due to increased imports of cigarettes, clothing and various food items.

FIRST THREE MONTHS OF THE YEAR: Merchandise imports for the three months January to March 2016 totaled $462.7 million, representing a 5.5 percent or $26.9 million decrease over the same period last year.

In accordance with March’s performance, ‘Mineral Fuel and Lubricants’ and ‘Machinery and Transport Equipment’ were the categories in greatest contrast over the three month period. While ‘Mineral Fuel and Lubricants’ was the source of Belize’s steepest decline at $21 million, falling from $58 million to $37 million, ‘Machinery and Transport Equipment’ held the country’s greatest imports, growing by more than $15 million over the period.

EXPORTS

MARCH: Total domestic exports for March 2016 amounted to $51.5 million, down 12.7 percent or $7.5 million when compared to exports for the month of March 2015.

Sugar’s bulk shipment led to a marked $8 million increase in earnings for that commodity, rising from $18.4 million for March 2015 to $26.4 million for March 2016. Of note, exported sugar quantities almost doubled in the month of March, with receipts from those sales constituting less than a 50 percent increase, signaling a reduction in fetched prices on the European market. This growth partially offset declines in Belize’s other major exports, marine, banana and citrus, which fell by $6 million, $5.4 million and $1.5 million, respectively. Marine exports plummeted from $8.5 million to $2.5 million, due almost entirely to a sharp fall in shrimp sales. Further, banana exports were halved from $11.6 million to $6.2 million, while citrus sales fell marginally from $12.5 million to $11 million, owing to lowered orange concentrate exports. Crude Petroleum reported no external sales for March 2015 and 2016 and thus had no impact on the month’s exports.

FIRST THREE MONTHS OF THE YEAR: Merchandise exports for the first quarter of 2016 totaled $104 million, down 27.5 percent or $39.5 million from the same period last year.

Owing to the surge in sugar sales within the month of March, sugar became the only major export to have increased over the three month period, growing from $27 million to $31 million.

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Consumer Price Index

CONSUMER PRICES INCREASE IN MARCH BY 0.1% AS FOOD PRICES INCREASE

The Consumer Price Index for the month of March stood at 102.9, up 0.1 percent from 102.7 in March 2015. This is a continuation of the trend observed since January 2016 when the first increase in the inflation rate was recorded after over a year of decrease. For the first quarter of this year inflation rate is slowly decreasing from a high of 0.4 percent in January.

Within the “Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages” category, the prices of “Food” recorded an increase of 1.6 percent. This was largely due to increases in fruits (4.4%), eggs (8.2%), sugar (29.5%), beef and veal (16.5%) and pork (5.5%).On the other hand, red kidney beans continued to reflect a decrease of 14.5 percent.

A 4.7 percent decrease was recorded in the “Transport” category. The prices of regular and diesel gasoline decreased by 0.9 percent and 6.2 percent respectively, while premium gasoline increased by 1.8 percent. International airfares drastically decreased by 32 percent.

The “Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels” category increased marginally by 0.1 percent. Within this category, home rental prices increased by 0.7 percent. Since the beginning of 2016, the trend continues with increases in this major category being offset by decreases in the prices of electricity and LPG. The average price of a 100-pound cylinder decreased from $93 in March 2015 to $84 in March 2016.

Across the seven municipalities, Corozal and Punta Gorda recorded the highest inflation rate of 1.7 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively, while both San Ignacio/Santa Elena and Belize City stood at negative 0.3 percent. Over the first quarter, Corozal reported an increase from 1.0 percent in January to 1.5 percent in February. Punta Gorda’s inflation rate is basically constant over the first 3 months of 2016 while Dangriga boasts the lowest inflation rate of negative 1.0 percent a downward trend from 4.0 percent in January and negative 0.9 in February.

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You may download the entire series for both External Trade and CPI in Excel format from the Statistical Institute of Belize website: (http://www.sib.org.bz/statistics)