Consumer Price Index

CONSUMER PRICES DOWN 0.1% IN DECEMBER 2018: RENT, FUEL AND LPG UP, AIRFARES DOWN

ALL-ITEMS: The latest statistics on consumer prices produced by the Statistical Institute of Belize show that, for the month of December 2018, the average Belizean household experienced, on average, an almost imperceptible decrease of 0.1 percent in the cost of regularly purchased goods and services when compared to December 2017. This was observed as higher prices for fuels, Liquefied Petroleum Gas, healthcare, and home rentals were offset by a sharp drop in intemational airfares. The All-Items Consumer Price Index (CPI), which summarizes all categories of goods and services, stood at 105.0 in December 2018, a decrease from 105.1 in December 2017 (see Figure 1). For the entire year 2018 compared to the year 2017, Belizean households experienced an overall annual inflation rate of 0.3 percent.

HOUSING, WATER, ELECTRICITY, GAS AND OTHER FUELS: For the month of December 2018, prices for goods and services within the `Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels' category saw an overall 1.6 percent increase in comparison to December 2017. Average home rental costs rose by 1.1 percent, as higher prices were observed in the municipalities of Orange Walk Town, San Ignacio/Santa Elena, and Punta Gorda. Furthermore, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) prices were up by 16.8 percent, with the average cost of a 100-pound cylinder of LPG rising by almost $17, from $99.25 in December 2017 to $115.91 in December 2018 (see Table 1). Also contributing to the increase in prices for this category were electricity tariffs, which were 6.4 percent higher than they were in December 2017, due to a tariff increase that went into effect earlier in the year.

TRANSPORT: The 'Transport' category, with a 5.2 percent decrease, was the main category exerting downward pressure on consumer prices for the month of December 2018. This was due to a sharp decline in international airfares, which significantly offset a 2.5 percent rise in prices in the 'Fuel and Lubricants' subcategory. At the pump, the price per gallon of Diesel went up by 11.5 percent from $9.62 in December 2017 to $10.73 in December 2018. Regular gasoline, on the other hand, fell by 5.1 percent from $10.45 to $9.92, while the average price per gallon of Premium gasoline remained unchanged at $11.38, when compared to December 2017 (see Table 1). Also, contributing to the decline in prices within this category was the cost of new motor vehicles, which was down by 4.9 percent from the same month in 2017.

FOOD & NON-ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES and ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES: Continuing the trend of previous months, the 'Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages' category saw a moderate reduction of 0.6 percent for the month of December 2018. This was mainly attributed to a decline within the 'Food' sub-category. A few meat products, namely whole chicken and pig tail, saw lower prices when compared to the same month in 2017, as did other food items, such as red kidney beans, sweet peppers, and limes (see Table 1). These decreases were sufficient to offset increases in the prices of other goods within this category, such as ground beef, pork chops, natural milk and watermelons.

ALL OTHER GOODS AND SERVICES: Together, the remaining categories of goods and services saw a 0.9 percent rise in consumer prices for the month of December 2018. The 'Health' category was the main contributor with a 4.2 percent increase, as higher prices were recorded for doctor consultation fees, surgery fees and pharmaceutical products, compared to December of 2017.

INFLATION RATES BY MUNICIPALITIES: Among the country's municipalities, Punta Gorda Town reported the highest increase in consumer prices for December 2018, with an inflation rate of 2.0 percent. Consumers in this town experienced above average increase in LPG prices, home rental costs, fuel prices and doctor consultation fees when compared to December 2017. On the other hand, Dangriga Town had the lowest inflation rate for the month, with prices actually declining by 2.1 percent overall, due to larger than average decreases in the prices of food items and home rental costs (see Figure 3).

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External Trade Bulletin

IMPORTS UP 7.2%, DOMESTIC EXPORTS UP 26.2% IN NOVEMBER 2018

IMPORTS

DECEMBER 2018: For the month of December 2018, Belize imported goods valuing $152.8 million. This represented an 8.6 percent or $14.4 million decrease from the same month in 2017, when imports totalled $167.2 million.


This overall downturn resulted from decreased imports across most commodity categories, with imports of ‘Machinery and Transport Equipment’ falling most significantly for the month. While the month of December 2017 saw the importation of aviation equipment and hydraulic bending machines, there were no similar high-value purchases for December 2018, causing the ‘Machinery and Transport Equipment’ category to decline by almost 25 percent or $8.9 million, from $36.4 million to $27.5 million. Goods destined for the ‘Commercial Free Zones’ went down by $3.9 million, from $30.7 million in December 2017 to $26.8 million in December of 2018, due to decreased purchases of various types of bags and personal care items. Imports meant for ‘Export Processing Zones’ (EPZ) dropped by more than 50 percent, from $6.4 million to less than $3 million, as the country spent less on EPZ goods such as high-pressure food processing equipment in December 2018. Lessened imports of mainly notebooks and glass bottles drove the category of ‘Manufactured Goods’ down by $3.3 million, from $20.6 million in December of 2017 to $17.3 million in December 2018, while smaller imports of confectioners’ sugar, canned chicken sausages, infant formula and cereals resulted in diminished imports of ‘Food and Live Animals’, from $18.8 million to $17.6 million.

Notwithstanding the overall decrease in total imports for the last month of 2018, the categories of ‘Mineral Fuels and Lubricants’ and ‘Other Manufactures’ both saw notable increases for the month. ‘Mineral Fuels and Lubricants’ experienced the most considerable growth, rising sharply by nearly 30 percent, from $21.2 million in December 2017 to $27.4 million in December 2018, due to greater quantities being imported during the month coupled with the higher cost of diesel fuel. The category of ‘Other Manufactures’ rose by just above $1 million, from $11.1 million to $12.1 million, with more imports of light and lighting fixtures, plastic bottles and bags for the month.

FIRST TWELVE MONTHS OF THE YEAR: Merchandise imports for the year 2018 amounted to $1.9 billion, representing a 4.6 percent or $83.7 million increase from the total imports recorded for 2017.

Greater world market prices for fuel contributed substantially to the growth in imports for the year 2018. Spending on ‘Mineral Fuels and Lubricants’ surged by 28 percent or $61.9 million, from approximately $221 million in 2017 to $282.9 million in 2018, despite there being very little change in the quantities of the country’s main fuels being imported during the year. Notable expenditures were also observed in goods meant for the ‘Commercial Free Zones’, with imports rising by $16.8 million from $307.2 million to almost $324 million, owing to higher purchases of cigarettes, bags and sportswear. Importation of ‘Machinery and Transport Equipment’ grew by $15.4 million, from $375.5 million in 2017 to $390.9 million in 2018, due to larger imports of aviation and telecommunications equipment and four-cylinder vehicles. The year 2018 also saw marked increases in food and beverage imports. Higher purchases of lard (shortening), coffee and flour led to a $3.6 million growth in the ‘Food and Live Animals’ category, from $216.1 million to $219.7 million, while a rise in imports of alcoholic beverages prompted a $2.6 million uptick in the ‘Beverages and Tobacco’ category, from $35.3 million to $37.9 million.

On the other hand, decreased spending was noted in the categories of ‘Other Manufactures’, ‘Crude Materials’ and ‘Export Processing Zones’. Imports of goods classified as ‘Other Manufactures’ fell by $10.4 million, from $161.3 million in 2017 to $150.9 million in 2018, as the country bought fewer laboratory plastics, prefabricated steel buildings and gaming machines over the course of the year. Similarly, with less imports of pasture grass seeds, utility poles made of pine, and asphalt, imports of ‘Crude Materials’ fell from $35.5 million to $30.1 million, while reduced imports of high-pressure food processing equipment, gaming machines and metal tanks, resulted in a drop in imports into the ‘Export Processing Zones’, from $41.1 million to $38.8 million.

DOMESTIC EXPORTS

DECEMBER 2018: The total value of Belize’s domestic exports for the month of December 2018 was $22.2 million, up a substantial 41.7 percent or $6.5 million from the $15.7 million recorded for December 2017.

For the final month of the year 2018, the country’s domestic exports saw boosted earnings from all major commodities, with the exception of crude petroleum, for which there were no recorded exports in either December 2017 or 2018. Exports of marine products grew by 52.8 percent or $1.7 million for the month, $3.2 million in December of 2017 to $4.9 million in December 2018, due to improved sales of both conch and lobster tails, while revenues from bananas rose by $1.5 million from $6.2 million to $7.7 million. Owing to greater sales of mainly grapefruit concentrate and orange concentrate for the month, earnings from citrus exports went up by 60.8 percent or $1.3 million, from $2.1 million to $3.4 million. With heightened sales of sugar, export revenues from that commodity surged from $0.2 million in December 2017 to $1.3 million in December 2018. Additionally, red kidney beans, though not a major export, saw sales amounting to almost $0.9 million in December 2018, compared to no sales for the previous December, providing a further boost the total exports for the month.

Consistent with the positive performance of domestic exports for the month, the country saw increased export earnings from the United Kingdom, the European Union, the United States of America (USA) and the Caricom region. Revenues from the United Kingdom rose from $3.9 million in December 2017 to more than $6 million in December 2018, on account of the boost in exports of both bananas and sugar, while greater exports of grapefruit concentrate as well as the aforementioned strong sales of bananas resulted in a rise in earnings from the European Union, from $3.5 million to $4.6 million. Exports to the USA grew from $2.9 million to $4.6 million, with increased sales of lobster tails, black-eyed peas and conch, while exports of red kidney beans and orange concentrate drove earnings from the Caricom region up from $2.7 million to $3.8 million for the month of December.

FIRST TWELVE MONTHS OF THE YEAR: Merchandise exports for the year 2018 totalled $398.7 million, down 10.5 percent or $46.9 million from total exports of 2017, which amounted to $445.6 million.

A significant decrease in earnings from sugar, attributable to diminished prices for that commodity on the European market, was the primary contributor to the decline in total domestic exports. Revenues from sugar plunged by 23.8 percent or more than $35 million, from just above $148 million in 2017 to $112.8 million in 2018, although there was virtually no change in exported volumes of that product between the two years. In addition, citrus products and bananas both suffered export losses in 2018. Earnings from citrus exports fell by 8.4 percent, or $6.8 million, from $80.5 million in 2017 to $73.7 million in 2018, due largely to decreased sales of orange oil and orange concentrate, while banana exports declined slightly by 3.3 percent or $2.7 million, from $81.8 million to $79.1 million.

In spite of the downturn in total domestic exports, however, marine products and crude petroleum each emerged with increased export earnings for the year. Revenues from marine products rose by 5.8 percent, from a little over $40 million in 2017 to $42.4 million in 2018, as improved prices for both conch and lobster tails positively impacted this category. Crude petroleum also benefited from favourable world market prices during the year and, notwithstanding a 25.2 percent drop in exported volumes of that commodity, earnings rose by 8.4 percent or $1.9 million, from $22.7 million in 2017 to $24.6 million in 2018.


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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)