Statistical Institute of Belize reports sluggish economy in second quarter


Latest figures on consumer prices released by the Statistical Institute of Belize show that the All-Items consumer price index stood at 102.8, a decline of 1 percent from 103.8 in last July. For the first seven months of this year, an inflation rate of negative 1 percent was recorded. This means that, on average, goods and services that Belizean households regularly buy were 1 percent cheaper than during the same period in 2014.

The ‘Transport’ category declined by 7.1 percent and remains the single greatest contributor to the overall fall in consumer prices. The prices of premium and regular gasoline decreased by 25 percent and 19 percent respectively, while the price of diesel was more than one fourth lower when compared to July 2014. Similarly, international airfares were down by almost 25 percent from the same month last year.

Food prices were almost unchanged, declining by an average of half of a percent during the month of July when compared to the same period last year. Despite increases in some products, such as beef, pork and eggs, substantial decreases in the prices of fresh vegetables and red kidney beans resulted in the marginal overall decrease.

The inflation rate for the category of ‘Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels’ was negative 0.5 percent during the month. Home rental prices inched up by 0.2 percent but were offset by a drop in the price of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) from $116 in July 2014 to $90 in July 2015.

All municipalities across the country recorded a decrease in consumer prices during the month of July 2015, with the exception of Dangriga, where there was an increase of 1.8 percent due to a greater than average increase in home rental prices. On the other hand, Belmopan, where home rental costs were the slowest to rise, continued to reflect the largest decline in consumer prices of negative 2.1 percent.

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Belize’s total imports for the month of July 2015 were valued at $189.7 million. This was an increase of $3.9 million or 2.1 percent over last July’s imports, which were valued at $185.8 million.

‘Mineral Fuels and Lubricants’ recorded the largest drop of $10 million, from $34 million to $24 million, as world fuel prices remained lower than they were a year ago. This decline served to offset, for the most part, significant increases of $7 million in the category of ‘Machinery and Transport Equipment’ and $5 million in ‘Food and Live Animals’. Higher purchases of telecommunications equipment drove the former, while a continued growth in wheat seed purchases was the main contributor to the latter.

For the first seven months of 2015, merchandise imports totaled $1.2 billion, increasing 4.4 percent or $50.3 million over the same period last year. Belize spent $45 million less on ‘Mineral and Fuel and Lubricants’, despite increases in the quantities of diesel, premium and regular fuels imported. However, $37 million more was spent on ‘Machinery and Transport Equipment’, owing to greater purchases of sailboats, airplanes, motor vehicles and telecommunications equipment within the seven month period. Imports of ‘Manufactured Goods’ went up by $16.5 million, the result of a steady upward trend in the importation of tires and steel, while, fertilizer and medical supply purchases led to an almost $12 million rise in imports of ‘Chemical Products’. For the seven months from January to July 2015, imports destined for the ‘Commercial Free Zones’ grew by $20 million.

Total domestic exports for July 2015 amounted to $63.8 million, up $8.4 million or 15.1 percent when compared to last July. A strong performance in sugar exports was almost single-handedly responsible for this growth, which was the largest percentage increase in domestic exports observed in any single month this year so far. All other major exports experienced notable declines, with the exception of bananas, which were almost unchanged when compared to July 2014.

Belize’s sugar exports grew sharply by $29 million during the month, from $3 million to $32 million, as higher quality sugar cane yielded more sugar per ton. Citrus exports, on the other hand, decreased by almost $10 million from $14 million to $4 million, the result of a sharp drop in orange concentrate sales for the month of July. Nonetheless, orange concentrate exports are expected to improve in the coming months. Continued low world market prices for crude petroleum led to an $8.5 million decline in export earnings from this commodity. Additionally, farm shrimp sales were halved for the second consecutive month to almost $4 million, resulting in an overall $2 million drop marine exports.

Merchandise exports for the period January to July 2015 totaled $367.9 million, down 7.2% or a $28.8 million over the same period last year. Crude petroleum had the largest share in that decline, with reduced earnings amounting to $41 million, an almost two-thirds drop from the $65 million recorded in 2014. Additionally, citrus concentrate earnings fell by $13 million during the seven month period, from $76 million to $63 million. Sugar earnings, which grew by a considerable 39 percent from $75 million to $104 million, partially compensated for the drop recorded in other major exports. A growth of $5 million in banana sales also contributed positively to Belize’s total exports for the period.