Consumer Price Index

CONSUMER PRICES UP 0.5% IN JULY 2018

ALL-ITEMS: The most recent results from the Statistical Institute of Belize’s monthly survey on consumer prices show that as of July 2018 the All-Items Consumer Price Index (CPI) stood at 105.0, an increase of 0.5 percent from 104.4 in July 2017 (see Figure 1). This means that the average Belizean household experienced a 0.5 percent increase in the cost of regularly purchased good and services when compared to the same month last year. For the first seven months of the year, the year to date inflation rate was a negligible 0.1 percent.

TRANSPORT: The ‘Transport’ category was the main contributor to the overall rise in the CPI, recording an increase of 3.9 percent for the month of July 2018. This was mainly due to a significant increase in fuel prices compared to the same month last year, as evidenced by an 8.7 percent increase in the ‘Fuel and Lubricants’ sub-category. At the pump, Premium gasoline rose by $0.73 per gallon from $11.04 in July 2017 to $11.77 in July 2018, Regular gasoline rose by $1.04 per gallon from $10.10 to $11.14, while Diesel increased by $1.87 per gallon from $8.94 to $10.81 (see Table 1). Also contributing to the overall increase in prices for this category were international airfares, which were 3.6 percent higher on average than they were in July of last year, coupled with the cost of vehicle maintenance and repairs, which were up by 4.9 percent, and the cost of new motor vehicles, which were 2.6 percent higher when compared to the same month last year.

FOOD & NON-ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES and ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES: The ‘Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages’ category recorded an overall 0.6 percent decrease for the month. This was mainly attributed to a decline within the ‘Food’ sub-category, as several meat products such as ground beef, beef steak, pork chops and pigtail recorded decreases in average prices for the month. These decreases were, however, mostly offset by increased prices in various other food items, including cabbage, lime, potatoes, red kidney beans, eggs and natural milk (see Table 1). Within the ‘Non-Alcoholic Beverages’ sub-category, the cost of coffee, tea and cocoa were all down in comparison to July of 2017.

HOUSING, WATER, ELECTRICITY, GAS AND OTHER FUELS:For the month of July 2018, home rental costs recorded an average decrease of 0.4 percent. This was, however, overshadowed by a 15 percent rise in LPG prices when compared to the same month last year. The average cost of a 100-pound cylinder of Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) rose from $99.67 in July 2017 to $114.65 in July 2018 (see Table 1). The combined result of these changes was a marginal overall increase of 0.03 percent in the ‘Housing Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels’ category.

ALL OTHER GOODS AND SERVICES: Across ‘All Other Categories of Goods and Services’ prices saw a 0.7 percent increase on average. Higher doctor consultation fees, increased insurance premiums for motor vehicles and a rise in admission fees to sporting events all contributed to the overall increase of this category compared to the same month of last year.

INFLATION RATES BY MUNICIPALITY: With an increase of 1.9 percent in July 2018, Orange Walk Town reported the highest inflation rate among the municipalities for the third consecutive month, as consumers in this locality experienced higher than average increases in food prices. Dangriga Town reported the lowest rate of inflation at negative 2.2 percent (see Figure 3), with households in this municipality seeing lower than average changes in food and home rental costs.

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External Trade

IMPORTS UP 7.5%, DOMESTIC EXPORTS UP 14% IN JULY 2018

IMPORTS

JULY 2018: Belize’s total imports for the month of July 2018 were valued at $165.6 million. This was an increase of 7.5 percent or $11.5 million from July 2017, when imports totaled $154.1 million.


A substantial 40 percent growth in the ‘Food and Live Animals’ category was the leading cause of the overall rise in imports for the month. That commodity category increased by $6.1 million, from $15.1 million in July 2017 to $21.2 million in July 2018, due to a spike in imports of wheat seeds and various grocery items. Goods destined for the ‘Commercial Free Zones’ also grew sizably by $4.1 million, from $26.6 million to $30.7 million, due in large part to heightened purchases of cigarettes and clothing. The country imported more ‘Machinery and Transport Equipment’ in July of this year, with increased purchases of optical fibers, transformers and vehicles leading to $3.3 million rise in this category for the month, from $29 million to $32.3 million. Imports of ‘Manufactured Goods’ were also up compared to last July, increasing by $2.1 million from $18 million to $20.1 million, owing to greater imports of glass bottles, plywood and polyester fabrics.

On the other hand, despite higher world market prices for fuel, purchases of ‘Mineral Fuels and Lubricants’ dropped from $22.2 million in July of last year to $19.7 million in July 2018, due to a significant drop in the quantity of diesel imported. Lowered imports of pine lumber resulted in purchases of ‘Crude Materials’ for the month falling by almost a half from $3.9 million to $2 million, while reduced purchases of fertilizers and antibiotics caused imports of ‘Chemical Products’ to fall from $19.7 million to $18.6 million.

FIRST SEVEN MONTHS OF THE YEAR: Merchandise imports for the first seven months, January to July 2018, amounted to $1.1 billion, representing a 3.9 percent or $40.4 million increase from the same period last year.

Greater spending across four categories, ‘Mineral Fuels and Lubricants’, ‘Commercial Free Zones’, ‘Machinery and Transport Equipment’ and ‘Food and Live Animals’ led to the growth in imports over this period. Imports of ‘Mineral Fuels and Lubricants’ went up from just under $129 million in 2017 to $158.3 million in 2018, as the country paid more for all imported fuels owing to higher world market prices. Imports into the ‘Commercial Free Zones’ rose by $14.4 million, from $161.4 million to $175.8 million, as a result of increased spending on hand bags and clothing, while purchases of ‘Machinery and Transport Equipment’ grew from $211.6 million to more than $223 million, due to heightened imports of telecommunications equipment, vehicles and food processing machines. In the first seven months of this year, Belize spent considerably more on food imports than it did for that same period last year, as the ‘Food and Live Animals’ category went up by $5.8 million, from $124.6 million to $130.4 million, with a variety of grocery items and wheat seeds being among the top imports in that category.

These increases, however, were partially offset by decreased imports of ‘Other Manufactures’, ‘Crude Materials’ and ‘Chemical Products’, which together declined by more than $21 million. The ‘Other Manufactures’ category fell from $94.8 million in 2017 to $86.3 million in 2018, as a result of decreased imports of laboratory plastics, prefabricated steel buildings, and lamps and lighting fixtures. Fewer purchases of pine lumber and grass seeds drove imports of ‘Crude Materials’ down by $7.2 million, from a little over $23 million to $15.8 million. For the period, the country bought noticeably less antibiotics, fertilizers and herbicides, resulting in a reduction in imports of ‘Chemical Products’ from approximately $109 million in 2017 to $103.7 million in 2018.

DOMESTIC EXPORTS

JULY 2018: Total domestic exports for July 2018 amounted to $32.4 million, up 14 percent or nearly $4 million when compared to exports for July 2017, which were valued at $28.4 million.

This sizeable increase in export earnings for the month was driven by a boost in exports from two of the country’s major commodities, sugar and bananas. Revenues from sugar surged from $1.5 million to $12.1 million due to variation in the timing of bulk shipments, as exports for the month of July 2018 included bulk sugar while shipments for the same month last year comprised of only bagged sugar. In addition, exports of bananas grew by almost 50 percent, from just under $5 million to $7.5 million, which is the largest recorded monthly increase for that commodity since the start of the year.

Belize’s other major exports, however, saw decreased earnings for the month. While sales of crude petroleum for July of last year totaled $5.1 million, there were no shipments of that commodity for July of this year. Earnings from citrus products fell by $1.2 million, from $6.4 million to $5.2 million, driven mostly by an appreciable decline in sales of orange concentrate. Exports of marine products fell slightly, from $3.8 million to $3.6 million, largely due to reduced exports of lobster tails for the month. There were virtually no export earnings from molasses for the month, in contrast to July 2017 when a bulk shipment of that product resulted in earnings of $2.1 million.

With the majority of the Belize’s sugar being exported to the United States of America in July of this year, earnings from that country rose sharply by $10.7 million, from $4.4 million in July 2017 to $15.1 million in July 2018. Revenues from the European Union, excluding the United Kingdom, went up by a lesser $2.2 million, from $3.4 million to $5.6 million, due mainly to increased sales of bananas to that region. On the other hand, revenues from CARICOM fell by more than 50 percent during the month, from almost $11 million to $5.2 million, due to the lack of crude petroleum exports in July 2018.

FIRST SEVEN MONTHS OF THE YEAR: Merchandise exports for the period January to July 2018 totaled $258.9 million, down 15 percent or $45.9 million from the same period last year.

For the first seven months of the year, export earnings from all major commodities declined. Notwithstanding a six percent increase in exported volumes of sugar compared to the same seven months in 2017, Belize’s leading export commodity suffered the greatest loss over the period, as earnings from that product fell by 21.2 percent or $23.2 million from $109.1 million to almost $86 million, due to diminished prices for bulk sugar on the European market. Revenues from citrus exports dropped by $8.2 million, from about $64 million in 2017 to $55.8 million in 2018, with earnings from orange concentrate and orange oil recording the most significant decreases of all citrus products. For the seven-month period, exports of bananas shrank by 7.8 percent or $3.7 million, from $46.7 million to a little over $43 million, while dwindling shrimp exports led to a decline in sales of marine products from just above $21 million in 2017 to $18.4 million in 2018. However, crude petroleum earnings suffered only a small decrease from $16.5 million to $15.9 million, despite an almost one-third drop in quantities exported, as world market prices for that product remained favourable over the period.


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2nd Quarter 2018 Gross National Product

ECONOMIC ACTVITY UP 5.4% IN SECOND QUARTER: GROWTH RECORDED ACROSS SECTORS

The Statistical Institute of Belize’s preliminary Gross Domestic Product estimates for the second quarter of 2018 showed that, during the three months from April to June of this year, the country’s overall level of economic activity increased by 5.4 percent when compared to the same period in 2017. The total value of goods and services produced in Belize was $765.3 million, up almost $40 million from $725.9 million in the second quarter of 2017. As shown in Figure 2, the growth seen during the quarter was due to increases across all three sectors. For the first half of the year, the country’s level of production was 3.4 percent higher than in 2017.

PRIMARY ACTIVITIES: Production in the primary sector grew by nine percent during the second quarter when compared to the same period last year, as several major industries recorded increases in production during the period. Sugarcane deliveries rose by 7.9 percent due to favourable weather conditions and improvements in milling efficiency at the factory. Banana shipments increased by 26.3 percent, from 19.6 thousand metric tons to 24.8 thousand metric tons, as the industry returned to normal levels of production following the negative effects of hurricane Earl in 2016 (see Figure 3). Livestock production also contributed positively to the growth in the primary sector for the second quarter, with cattle production rising by 22.5 percent, while pig production grew by 29.6 percent and poultry production was up 12.4 percent. Conversely, citrus production dropped by more than one third, with orange fruit deliveries down by 33.1 percent due to aging fruit trees and citrus greening. Marine production continued to struggle, with reduced exports of shrimp, whole fish and lobster tails resulting in a 16.4 percent decline in production during the quarter.

SECONDARY ACTIVITIES: The secondary sector, which accounts for about one sixth of the country’s economic activity, grew by 12.4 percent when compared to the second quarter of 2017. The ‘Electricity and Water’ sector recorded an increase of 38.2 percent in production during the quarter, largely due to a 45.6 percent surge in electricity generation as more local providers entered into the market and imports of electricity decreased (see Figure 4). Water generation also increased by one percent, due to an increase in demand. ‘Construction’ activities saw an increase of 7.6 percent during the period, as reflected in a 15.3 percent rise in cement imports and 4.4 percent growth in loans for building and construction. Manufacturing of beverages was up by 12.5 percent compared to the second quarter of 2017, due to a 9.9 percent increase in beer production as a result of higher demand. These gains were, nonetheless, partially offset by a significant decline of 36 percent in citrus concentrate production during the quarter.

TERTIARY ACTIVITIES: The tertiary sector, which accounts for more than half of Belize’s total economy, grew by 3.8 percent during second quarter of 2018 when compared to the same period of 2017. Within this sector, ‘Accommodation and Food Services’ grew by 9.3 percent during the quarter. The number of overnight visitors rose by more than 11 thousand persons, from 107.9 thousand in 2017 to 119.5 thousand in 2018, with increases being seen in the number of visitors from Canada, Europe and the United States of America. Cruise passengers increased by almost 42 thousand persons, from 205.6 thousand to 247.3 thousand, due to an additional fourteen cruise ship calls to the country in the months of May and June 2018 (see Figure 5). ‘Wholesale and Retail Trade’ recorded an increase of 6.1 percent, as imports expanded during the period, while ‘Government Services’ rose by 2.9 percent.

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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)