Consumer Price Index

CONSUMER PRICES UP 1% AS FUEL AND HOUSE RENT RISE

The Statistical Institute of Belize’s latest statistics show that, on average, consumer prices were 1.0 percent higher in July 2016 than in the month of July 2015. The All-Items Consumer Price Index stood at 103.8, up from 102.8 in same month last year. For the first seven months of 2016, an inflation rate of 0.6 percent was recorded, as lower fuel prices in the earlier months of the year helped to keep inflation down at the start of the year.

Home rental prices, a major expenditure item for Belizean households, rose by an average of 2.5 percent compared to last July. This was partly offset by a decrease in Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), with the average price of a 100-pound cylinder down from $90 in July of last year to $82 in July 2016, and lower electricity tariffs in comparison to twelve months ago. As a result, an overall increase of 1.7 percent was seen in the category of “Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels”.

Premium gasoline and diesel prices continued to rise, recording increases of 1.5 percent and 13 percent, respectively, compared to July 2015. This increase was offset by lower international airfares, which were down by 12 percent, leaving the “Transport” category virtually unchanged overall.

On average, prices for “Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages” were also largely unchanged, with the category decreasing by 0.2 percent overall during the month. At the individual product level, beef and sugar were among the products whose prices were up in comparison to July 2015, while eggs, chicken and vegetable oil saw price decreases.

Across “All Other Categories of Goods and Services” prices rose, on average, by 1.5 percent, due mainly to higher health insurance premiums and doctors’ consultation fees.

All municipalities recorded increases in consumer prices during the month, with Orange Walk Town recording the highest inflation rate at 2 percent followed by Corozal Town at 1.8 percent. These two locations had the largest increases in home rental costs, while Dangriga, which recorded only a very minimal increase in the cost of this item, saw the lowest rate of inflation at 0.2 percent.

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External Trade Bulletin

IMPORTS AND EXPORTS BOTH DOWN IN JULY

IMPORTS

JULY: During the month of June 2016, Belize’s imported Belize’s total imports for the month of July 2016 were valued at $173 million. This was a decrease of 8.8 percent or $16.7 million from imports for July 2015, which totaled $189.7 million.

Imports for July 2016 were down across most major categories when compared to July 2015, with the largest declines being in imports of ‘Mineral Fuels and Lubricants’ and goods destined for the ‘Export Processing Zones’, which fell by over $8 million each. The decline in ‘Mineral Fuels and Lubricants’ resulted from a drop of more than one half in the quantity of diesel fuel imported coupled with the fact that no premium gasoline came into the country during the month. Decreased purchases of shrimp feed, generators, electric motors and gaming machines caused the drop in imports for ‘Export Processing Zones’. Additionally, decreased importation of fertilizers led to a $4 million drop in the ‘Chemical Products’ category, while items headed for the ‘Commercial Free Zones’ were reduced by the same amount, as purchases of textile material and clothing declined in comparison to July 2015.

‘Machinery and Transport Equipment’ was one of the few categories that saw any significant increase during July 2016, as higher purchases of four-cylinder and diesel vehicles resulted in growth of almost $5 million. The ‘Other Manufactures’ category was up by almost $4 million, driven by increased imports of prefabricated steel buildings, laboratory plastics, electric lamps and lamp fittings, while the ‘Food and Live Animals’ category rose by over $1 million, the result of a rise in purchases of various food items.

FIRST SEVEN MONTHS OF THE YEAR: Merchandise imports for the seven months from January to July 2016 totaled $1.1 billion, representing a 3.4 percent or $40.2 million decrease from the same period last year. The categories of ‘Mineral Fuels and Lubricants’, ‘Commercial Free Zones’, ‘Export Processing Zones’ and ‘Manufactured Goods’ fell by a combined $107. These were partially offset by sizeable increases in purchases of ‘Machinery and Transport Equipment’ and ‘Food and Live Animals’, which together grew by almost $60 million.

EXPORTS

JULY: Total domestic exports for July 2016 amounted to $30 million, down 53 percent or $33.9 million when compared to $63.9 million in exports for the month of July 2015.

As occurred in June, a change in the scheduling of bulk shipments of sugar was the main cause of this decline, with sugar exports for the month valued at $7 million compared to $32 million in July of last year. Of note, July 2016 marked the first shipment from sugar producer Santander, which supplied almost $6 million of the total exports of this product for the month.

Crude petroleum, another of the country’s major commodities, recorded no exports for the month of July 2016, in contrast to the $5 exported during July of last year. Sales of marine products also dropped sharply, from $8 million to $4.5 million, as shrimp exports were minimal for the month of July 2016. Banana sales decreased only marginally during the month.

Citrus was the only major export to have performed positively in the month of July 2016, growing by over a million dollars, from $3.9 million to $5.2 million, owing to favourable orange concentrate sales.

FIRST SEVEN MONTHS OF THE YEAR: Merchandise exports for the period January to July 2016 totaled $261.8 million, down almost one third or $106.8 million from the $368.7 million recorded for same period last year.

All major exports, with the exception of citrus, fell during the first seven months of 2016 when compared to the same period last year. With shrimp exports at only a small fraction of what they were for this period in 2015, sales of marine products dropped by more than two thirds, from $59 million to $19 million. Sugar, which saw a 13 percent reduction in the volume of exports, faced a loss of more than one third in export revenues, from $104 million to $68 million, as prices fetched on the European market remained lower than they were in 2015. Earnings from crude petroleum dropped by almost one half, from $23.5 million to $12.5 million, the result of a decline in the quantity exported and coupled with lower world market prices. Banana exports declined by 30 percent compared to the same seven month period in 2015.

Citrus emerged as the sole major export that saw improved earnings over the period January to July 2016. Belize benefited from favourable world market prices, allowing for an increase of $5 million in citrus earnings, despite a drop in the volume of citrus concentrate exported.

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ECONOMIC ACTIVITY DOWN 1.6% IN SECOND QUARTER: SLOWDOWN IN AGRICULTURE AND MANUFACTURING

For the three months from April to June 2016, the level of economic activity for the country of Belize declined by 1.6 percent in comparison to the same period in 2015. Estimates by the Statistical Institute of Belize indicate that the total value of goods and services produced during this period was $713.2 million, down $11.3 million from the $724.5 million produced during the second quarter of 2015.

PRIMARY ACTIVITIES: The primary sector experienced a sharp drop of 26 percent during the second quarter, as several major industries recorded downturns during this period. Citrus production was down by one fourth from the second quarter of 2015, with 14,000 fewer boxes of orange fruit being delivered. This was as a result of smaller crops, aging fruit trees, and adverse weather conditions which affected fruit maturity. The closure of one of the large banana farms coupled with the lingering effects of bad weather conditions led to a 22 percent reduction in banana production. Marine production also saw a sharp decline as the shrimp industry, its top export earner, continued to struggle.

Sugarcane production, on the other hand, rose by 24 percent during the period, due to an earlier start to the crop season as well as the addition of a new producer in the Cayo district. Logging and forestry activities also saw a significant increase, with sawn wood exports rising by 60 percent during the quarter.

The services sector, which accounts for well over one half of the country’s economic activities, grew by 3.8 percent during the second quarter of 2016. Wholesale and retail trade activities saw a moderate increase of 2 percent, while tourism recorded a strong performance, growing by 13 percent when compared to the same three month period in 2015. With the addition of seven new cruise ships visiting Belize, the number of cruise visitors jumped by almost 30,000. The number of overnight visitors also saw a substantial increase of 13,000 persons over the period.

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BUSINESS ESTABLISHMENT SURVEY

The Statistical Institute of Belize, over the period from April to June 2016, carried out its first Business Establishment Survey (BES) in almost ten years. Over 4,100 businesses of varying sizes across the country were included in the BES 2016, with data being collected on the general characteristics and finances of business establishments in Belize.

Preliminary survey findings indicated that business activity was most highly concentrated in the Belize district, where 31 percent of all establishments were located, and the Cayo district, which contained twenty percent of all businesses in the country. This was generally consistent with the geographic distribution of the population, these two districts accounting for just over a half of all persons living in the country. Only 9 percent of businesses were located in Toledo, the country’s least populated district.

The vast majority of the country’s businesses, almost three out of every four establishments, were on the lower end of the size spectrum, reporting gross annual earnings of $75,000 or less for the year 2014. More than one half of all establishments reported income of less than $25,000. Just over one fifth fell within the range of $75,000 to $1 million, while only 6.5 percent reported that they had earnings in excess of $1 million for 2014. Almost 90 percent of all establishments had 10 or fewer employees at the time of the survey.

“Wholesale and Retail Trade” was the dominant type of economic activity, with approximately two fifths of the country’s establishments engaged in this type of enterprise. About 58 percent of businesses that were engaged in wholesale and retail trade reported gross earnings of less than $25,000 for the year 2014, indicating that a large proportion of these establishments were relatively small. Businesses engaged in ‘Accommodation and Food Service Activities” accounted for 16.5 percent of all establishments, with over a half of these reporting annual earnings of less than $25,000. Of the ‘Manufacturing’ sector, which accounted for 9.7 percent of all businesses in Belize, more than half saw gross revenues of less than $25,000 in the year 2014.

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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)