& 2016 4th Quarter GDP Estimates

Consumer Price Index

CONSUMER PRICES UP 2.3% IN FEBRUARY 2017

The latest figures on consumer prices released by the Statistical Institute of Belize show that, on average, prices for goods and services regularly purchased by households in Belize were 2.3 percent higher during the month of February 2017 than they were in February of 2016. The All-Items consumer price index stood at 105.1 for the month, an increase from 102.7 during the same period last year (see Figure 1). Higher prices were recorded across the three largest categories, namely ‘Transport’, ‘Food and Non-alcoholic Beverages’ and ‘Housing, Water, Electricity Gas and other Fuels’, which together account for almost two thirds of all household purchases.

The ‘Transport’ category saw prices jumping by almost 20 percent during February 2017 (see Figure 2), and was the major contributing factor to the overall rise in consumer prices for the month. ‘Fuel’ prices for the month were up more than 16 percent, with the most notable increase observed in the price of diesel fuel, which jumped by 43 percent from $6.36 in February 2016 to $9.11 in February 2017 (see Table 1). International airfares, which had been trending downwards for an extended period due to increasing competition, saw a significant hike in the prices for some destinations, further contributing to the overall increase in ‘Transport’ prices. Prices for the purchase of new motor vehicles were also up, recording a seven percent increase during the month.

An overall decline of 2.1 percent in the prices of ‘Food and Non- Alcoholic Beverages’ was able to offset some of the effects of rising transport costs during the period. Most notably, across the ‘Meat’ category, consumers saw lowered prices for items such as ground beef, beef steak, whole chicken and chicken breast (see Table 1). Decreases were also observed in the prices of eggs and milks.

The ‘Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels’ category recorded an overall increase of 0.9 percent for the month of February 2017, when compared to February 2016. Within this category, the price of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) was up considerably, with the cost of a 100-pound cylinder of LPG rising 12 percent from $82.60 in February 2016 to $92.35 in February 2017. Consumers also saw home rental prices rising by half a percent on average.

Across all municipalities, Belmopan recorded the highest inflation rate of 3.5 percent for the month of February 2017, with Dangriga not far behind at 3.3 percent. These two municipalities recorded increases in home rental prices during the period that were well above the national average, while Dangriga also experienced the highest increase in ‘Transport’ prices for the month.

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External Trade Bulletin

IMPORTS DOWN 13.1%, EXPORTS DOWN 12.9%

IMPORTS

February 2017: Belize’s total imports for the month of February 2017 were valued at $140.4 million. This was a decrease of 13.1 percent or $21.1 million from imports for February 2016, which totaled $161.6 million.


For the second month in a row, imports were down across most categories. ‘Machinery and Transport Equipment’, the category with the largest recorded drop for the month, fell by $10.8 million, from $42.2 million to $31.4 million, due in most part to reduced purchases of telecommunications equipment, agricultural equipment and four cylinder vehicles. Goods imported into the ‘Commercial Free Zones’ amounted to $21.1 million, a decline of $6.8 million when compared to that of last February, with cigarettes, handbags and shoes being among the diminished items. While less imports of gold jewelry, lighting fixtures and laboratory plastics led to a $4 million decrease in the ‘Other Manufactures’ category, a fall in purchases of wheat starch, wheat gluten and bio-ethanol contributed to a $3.5 million drop in the ‘Chemical Products’ category. For the month, importation of ‘Food and Live Animals’ fell by $2.8 million and goods destined for the ‘Export Processing Zones’ declined by $2.4 million. While the former category saw decreased imports of coffee, powdered beverages and lard (shortening), lowered purchases of imported containers, lubricating oils and air compressors were recorded for the latter category.

Importation of both ‘Mineral Fuels and Lubricants’ and ‘Manufactured Goods’, on the other hand, grew in the month of February 2017. Belize spent over 50 percent or $8.1 million more on ‘Mineral Fuels and Lubricants’ because of rising fuel prices on the world market, despite recording only modest increases in the quantities of diesel and regular fuels imported. The second month of the year saw heightened purchases of construction steel, glass bottles and carton boxes, prompting a $2.2 million expansion in the ‘Manufactured Goods’ category.

FIRST TWO MONTHS OF THE YEAR: Merchandise imports for the two months January to February 2017 totaled $276.6 million, representing a 3.3 percent or $9.3 million decrease from the same two months of 2016. The most notable drop over this period was observed in the ‘Machinery and Transport Equipment’ category, where imports declined by almost $13 million, from $70.6 million to $57.6 million. Telecommunications equipment, four cylinder vehicles and agricultural equipment were among those items not heavily affected within this category. In contrast, ‘Mineral Fuels and Lubricants’ recorded the largest increase for the period at $10.2 million, growing by 41 percent to $35.1 million.

EXPORTS

February 2017: Total domestic exports for February 2017 amounted to $25.8 million, down 12.9 percent or $3.8 million when compared to exports for February 2016.

A steep fall in citrus sales during the month was the primary cause of the overall decrease in Belize’s export earnings. Citrus exports, comprising mainly of orange concentrate, dropped by 45 percent or $3.9 million, from the $8.7 million noted for February 2016. Additionally, sugar exports for the month fell by $1.5 million, as exported quantities of that commodity dwindled by over a half.

On a positive note, banana exports, recorded a strong performance for the month, rising by over $3 million, from $4.2 million in February 2016 to $7.3 million in February of this year. Additionally, recovering shrimp exports resulted in a slight growth of $0.4 million in the marine products category.

FIRST TWO MONTHS OF THE YEAR: Merchandise exports for the first two months of 2017 totaled $60.4 million, up 15 percent or $7.9 million from the same period last year.

Sugar exports grew considerably by $8.6 million over the period, as revenue for that commodity surged from $5 million in 2016 to $13.6 million in 2017. This was largely attributable to a bulk shipment of this commodity made in January 2017. Among the major exports, banana also performed strongly during the first two months of the year, with sales amounting to $15.1 million. This represented a two thirds increase over the $9 million reported for the same period in 2016. Despite there being virtually no change in the quantities of crude petroleum exported during the period when compared to 2016, Belize benefited greatly from higher world market prices for petroleum, with earnings for that product going up from $3.4 million in the first two months of 2016 to $5.8 million in 2017. A continued recovery within the shrimp industry was the main driver of the increase in the marine exports category for the two month period, with revenues rising from $6.8 million in 2016 to $8.4 million in 2017. Citrus exports was the only major product to have shown a decline during the first two months of the year, with revenues falling by almost a half from $12.2 million to $6.4 million, owing mostly to decreased sales of orange concentrate


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Gross Domestic Product (GDP) 4th Quarter 2016

BELIZEAN ECONOMY DECLINES 1.2% IN FOURTH QUARTER: PRIMARY AND SECONDARY ACTIVITIES DOWN, TERTIARY ACTIVITIES UP

The latest figures released by the Statistical Institute of Belize show that, on average, the prices of goods and services purchased by Belizean Households were 0.9 percent higher in January 2017 than they were in January of 2016. The All-Items consumer price index stood at 104.1, an increase from 103.2 in January 2016.

The ‘Fuel’ sub-category continues to follow last year’s pattern, trending upward. Diesel prices recorded the highest increase when compared to January 2016, rising 40 percent from $6.52 to $9.12. The average price of premium gasoline stood at $10.12 for the month of January 2017, an 18 percent increase from $8.57 in January 2016, while regular gasoline stood at $9.96, a 23 percent increase from $8.11 in the same month of 2016. Further driving the category upwards, international airfare prices recorded a 47 percent increase when compared to last January, while the rise in bus fares in October of last year was reflected in a 5.6 percent increase in the ‘Passenger Transport by Road’ sub-category. As a result of these increases, the ‘Transport’ category recorded an overall 9.4 percent increase for the month.

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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)


SIB Confirms GDP Contraction For Fourth Quarter
It's no secret that Belize's economy is in recession and today the Statistical Institute of Belize confirmed that Belize's Gross Domestic Product contracted again in the last three months of 2016. It's the first time since 2011 that the fourth quarter has seen a contraction in economic growth. Some say it's also the first time in decades that Belize has experienced four successive quarters of economic contraction. Today the SIB explained why the GDP is down again: Angelita Campbell - Statistician II, SIB: "Belize produced goods and services totalling 666.7 million dollars for the period October to December 2016. What that indicates a decrease of 1.2% or roughly 7.9 million dollars in production. This graft shows the fluctuation in terms of percent value. In 2012 we had an increase of roughly 2.9 percent then in 2013 fourth quarter as had Banana showing a decrease of 30 percent and that was mainly due to the effect of Hurricane Earl and the exit of a major banana farm."

Inflation Soared In Feb Due To Travel Costs
And while beer production is down, inflation is up. That means goods and services regularly purchased by households in Belize cost 2.3 percent more during the month of February 2017 than in February of 2016. As the SIB statistician explained, the increase was driven mainly by rising transport costs: Jacqueline Sabal - Statistician II, SIB: "There's a very large increase in transport. In February 2017 compared to February 2016. Food prices did decrease as you can see but not enough to bring down the all items index. Transport by air played a major role in the movement of the transport index. Across all municipalities everyone recorded an increase in consumer prices. Belmopan recorded the highest inflation rate at 3.5 percent with Dangriga not too far behind at 3.3 percent."

Exports and Imports Sag
And Belize's external trade profile was also not encouraging. Here's the breakdown: Stephanie Vasquez - Statistician, SIB: "The largest changes in imports for the period were observed in the following categories. The machinery and transport equipment category which accounted for 58 million dollars of Belize's import in January to February 2017 fell by 13 million dollars as Belize imported less telecommunication equipment, 4 cylinder vehicles and agricultural equipment than it did in January to February 2016. Good destined for export processing zones which amounted to 4 million dollars for the first 2 months of this year dropped by 6 million when compared to the same period of last year going to reduced imports of gaming machines, shrimp feed and containers.

SIB Reports: Exports Down in Fourth Quarter; Citrus Boom Not Felt Yet
The Statistical Institute of Belize confirms today that exports are significantly down. In the case of citrus which once placed as the number one export that industry has plummeted to [...]

Fuel Goads Inflation Forward
Fuel prices, as motorists would know, have shot up considerably, jumping almost twenty percent during February 2017.  The most notable increase was in the cost of diesel fuel which went [...]