Consumer Price Index

CONSUMER PRICES UP 0.1% IN FEBRUARY 2019: FOOD, AIRFARE AND LPG UP, FUEL AND RENT DOWN


ALL-ITEMS: The latest results of the Statistical Institute of Belize's monthly Consumer Price Index (CPI) survey show that for the month of February 2019, Belizean households saw the cost of regularly purchased goods and services rise by 0.1 percent, on average, when compared to February 2018. Higher prices for various food items, international airfares and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) slightly overshadowed a drop in home rental costs and fuel prices during the month. The All-Items CPI, which summarizes all categories of good and services, stood at 104.6 in February 2019, a decrease from 104.5 in February 2018 (see Figure 1).


TRANSPORT: Despite increases in international airfares and the cost of maintenance and repairs of personal vehicles. the 'Transport' category recorded an overall decrease of 1.2 percent for the month of February 2019 when compared to February 2018 (see Figure 2). This was mainly due to decreases seen in the 'Fuel and Lubricants' sub-category, which saw prices going down by 3.4 percent when compared to the same month of last year. Fuel prices began to see a decline in December 2018, after having trended steadily upwards for almost two years. At the pump, the average price per gallon of Premium gasoline went down by 10.4 percent from $11.46 in February 2018 10 810.27 in February 2019, while Regular gasoline declined by 6.6 percent from $10.29 to $9.61, and Diesel fell by 1.4 percent from $10.12 to $9.98 (see Table 1).

FOOD AND NON-ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES: For the month of February 2019, the 'Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages' category saw a small overall increase of 0.3 percent when compared to February 2018. Higher prices were recorded for eggs, natural milk, several meat products such as ground beef, beef steak and whole chicken. and some vegetables and fruits, including sweet peppers and watermelons. These increases were, however, offset in part by decreased prices in various other food items, such as pork chops, red kidney beans, pig tail, limes, pineapples and potatoes (see Table 1).

HOUSING, WATER, ELECTRICITY, GAS & OTHER FUELS: Prices within the 'Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels' category decreased by OA percent for the month of February 2019 when compared to February 2018 (see Figure 2). Home rental costs, which holds the largest share of any individual item within the average household budget, recorded a 1 percent decrease on average. This was as a result of lower rental costs in Belize City, Belmopan City and Dangriga Town. The effect of the decrease in the cost of this item was partly overshadowed by an 11.9 percent increase in electricity prices, resulting from rate increases that went into effect in July 2018 and January 2019, and LPG prices, which were 11 percent higher than they were in February of last year. The average cost of a 100-pound cylinder of LPG rose by almost $12, from $103.53 in February 2018 to $114.87 in February 2019 (see Table 1).


ALL OTHER CATEGORIES OF GOODS AND SERVICES: Together, the remaining categories of goods and services saw, in comparison to February 2018, a 0.8 percent rise in consumer prices for the month of February 2019 (see Figure 2). Higher fees for secondary education, health and motor vehicle insurance premiums, and entrance fees to sporting events all contributed to the overall increase among these categories for the month.

INFLATION BY MUNICIPALITY: Among the country's municipalities, Punta Gorda Town experienced the highest monthly increase in consumer prices, with an inflation rate of 3.4 percent when compared to February 2018. Consumers in this town saw above average increases in food prices, hospital room accommodations, doctor consultation fees and home rental costs. On the other hand, Dangriga Town experienced the lowest inflation rate, with prices going down by 6 percent compared to February of last year, as consumers in this municipality saw a greater than average reduction in home rental costs (see Figure 3).

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External Trade Bulletin

IMPORT S UP 6.8%, DOMESTIC EXPORT S UP 13.4% IN FEBRUARY 2019

IMPORTS

FEBRUARY 2019: Belize’s total imports for the month of February 2019 were valued at almost $146 million. This was an increase of 6.8 percent or $9.2 million from imports for February 2018, which totaled $136.8 million (see Figure 1).


Increasing Categories: A significant 51 percent growth in the ‘Mineral Fuels and Lubricants’ category was the leading contributor to the rise in imports for the month. That category surged by almost $9 million, from $17.5 million in February 2018 to $26.5 million in February 2019, on account of greater imported quantities of both diesel and kerosene fuels. Imports of ‘Manufactured Goods’ went up by $3.9 million, from $17.4 million to $21.3 million, with increased purchases of corrugated steel rods, steel structures and tires. Imports of ‘Chemical Products’ also rose by $3.9 million, from $10.6 million in February 2018 to $14.5 million in February 2019, as the country bought more fertilizers, pipes and hoses in February of this year. Furthermore, with larger purchases of metal structures and gold jewelry, the ‘Other Manufactures’ category grew from $9.7 million in February 2018 to almost $11 million in February 2019.

Decreasing Categories: Notwithstanding the overall increase in imports, the categories of ‘Food and Live Animals’, ‘Machinery and Transport Equipment’ and ‘Designated Processing Areas ’ all fell notably during the month. With reduced imports of wheat seeds, rice seeds and various food items, the ‘Food and Live Animals’ category declined from $16.6 million in February of last year to a little over $13 million in February 2019, while smaller purchases of fiber optic cables, four-cylinder vehicles and diesel trucks led to a $3.2 million drop in the ‘Machinery and Transport Equipment’ category, from $30.9 million to $27.7 million. Imports destined for the ‘Designated Processing Areas’ went down by $1.4 million, from $3.8 million to $2.4 million, due to lessened purchases of items such as hoses, air conditioners and food processing machinery.


FIRST TWO MONTHS OF THE YEAR: Merchandise imports for the first two months, January to February 2019, amounted to $307.8 million, representing a 9.6 percent or $26.9 million increase from the same period last year.

Greater expenditures across most commodity categories led to the growth in imports over this period. Imports of ‘Manufactured Goods’ rose significantly by almost $10 million, from $35.1 million in 2018 to $45.1 million in 2019, due to increased purchases of corrugated steel bars, metal items and structures, carton boxes and ceramic tiles. Purchases of ‘Chemical Products’ went up by $7.5 million, from a little over $22 million to $29.5 million, mainly on account of larger purchases of fertilizers within the two-month period. The ‘Mineral Fuels and Lubricants’ category grew from $38.1 million to $44.5 million compared to the first two months of last year, as imported quantities of diesel fuel increased by more than 50 percent while the quantity of kerosene imported during the period were tripled. Goods meant for the ‘Commercial Free Zones’ went up by $4.5 million, from $42.8 million in 2018 to $47.3 million in 2019, with heightened purchases of tennis shoes, men’s clothing and cigarettes, while imports of ‘Machinery and Transport Equipment’ rose by $2.7 million, from $63.3 million to almost $66 million, owing largely to the high-value purchases of aviation equipment and liquid dielectric transformers.

However, in spite of the overall growth in imports, the categories of ‘Designated Processing Areas’, ‘Food and Live Animals’ and ‘Other Manufactures’, all declined over the period. Goods imported into the ‘Designated Processing Areas’ fell from $7.9 million in 2018 to $5.4 million in 2019, with fewer purchases of an assortment of items, such as hoses, electrical equipment and electric cables. With lessened imports of a variety of food products, the ‘Food and Live Animals’ category decreased from $36.4 million to $34.9 million, while reduced purchases of surveying and meteorological instruments drove the ‘Other Manufactures’ category down by $1.1 million, from almost $22 million in 2018 to $20.9 million in 2019.



EXPORTS

FEBRUARY 2019:: Total domestic exports for February 2019 amounted to $25.5 million, up 13.4 percent or a little over $3 million when compared to exports for February 2018, which were valued at $22.5 million (see Figure 3).

Increased earnings, mainly from bananas and sugar, drove this overall growth in domestic exports for the month. Revenues from bananas went up by $1.6 million, from $4.9 million in February of 2018 to $6.5 million in February 2019, while earnings from sugar rose by $1.3 million, from $3.5 million to $4.8 million, because a small bulk shipment of sugar was included in this February’s exports, while there were no bulk shipments in February of last year. In addition, owing mostly to increased exports of conch, along with improved sales of shrimp, whole lobsters and lobster meat compared to February of 2018, earnings from marine products saw an uptick, from $3.2 million to $3.7 million. On the other hand, revenues from citrus products fell slightly, from a little over $6 million to $5.6 million, attributable to decreased orange concentrate exports for the month. Among the country’s other exports, a notable drop was recorded for red kidney beans, as earnings for that commodity fell steeply from $1.3 million in February 2018 to just above $0.3 million in February 2019.

Earnings from the European Union went up from $3.9 million in February 2018 to $6.2 million in February 2019, as a result of increased exports of bananas, coupled with the fact that all sales of grapefruit oil for the month were destined for the region. In contrast, export revenues from Mexico declined markedly from $1.1 million to less than $0.03 million, as no lobster tails were exported to that country in February 2019 (see Figure 4).


FIRST TWO MONTHS OF THE YEAR: Merchandise exports for the period January to February 2019 totaled $65.1 million, up 36.1 percent or $17.3 million from the same period last year.

Within the first two months of this year, bulk shipments of sugar, the scheduling of which varies from year to year, was the reason for this substantial growth in overall export earnings compared to the first two months of last year. Earnings from sugar rose significantly by $16.1 million, from $6.1 million in 2018 to $22.2 million in 2019, as exports for this year included bulk sugar, while only bagged sugar was exported for that same period last year. Boosted earnings from bananas and marine products also contributed to the increase in domestic exports over the period. Earnings from bananas went up by $2.6 million, from $9.7 million in 2018 to $12.3 million in 2019, as the industry showed signs of recovery from the early months of last year, when bananas were heavily impacted by the record rains of January 2018. Revenues from marine products grew by $2.2 million over the period, rising from $5.2 million to $7.4 million, due to increased sales of conch, whole lobsters and lobster meat, along with improved sales of shrimp.

Revenues from citrus products and crude petroleum, on the other hand, declined notably over the two-month period. Owing for the most part to a drop in orange concentrate exports, earnings from citrus products fell by $2.3 million, from $14.4 million to $12.1 million, while due to lower prices on the world market, earnings from crude petroleum diminished by $1.7 million, from $7.7 million in 2018 to just above $6 million in 2019.


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Economy Grows 1.3% in Fourth Quarter 2018: Primary and Tertiary Activities Up

The Statistical Institute of Belize’s preliminary Gross Domestic Product estimates for the fourth quarter of 2018 showed that, during the three months from October to December, the country’s overall level of economic activity increased by 1.3 percent when compared to the fourth quarter of 2017. The total value of goods and services produced in Belize was $706.4 million, up $9.2 million from $697.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2017 (see Figure 1).

The growth experienced in the fourth quarter was due to a 12.6 percent increase within the Primary sector and a 2 percent increase within the Tertiary sector, which together outweighed a 9.6 percent decline in the Secondary sector for the quarter (See Figure 2).

PRIMARY ACTIVITIES: Among the three sectors of the economy, the Primary sector experienced the largest rate of growth at 12.6 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2017, with several of the major industries within this sector increasing notably during the quarter. This included citrus, which saw orange production rise by 3 percent and grapefruit production grow by 111 percent, as both crops experienced an early maturing period. Banana production expanded by a significant 26.3 percent, as the industry continued its recovery from the losses sustained due to Hurricane Earl in 2016. Increased production of local hams, in anticipation of heightened demand for the Christmas season, led to a 10.6 percent rise in pig production during the fourth quarter of 2018, while increased market demand for beef resulted in cattle production growing by 20.2 percent (see Figure 3). Poultry production, on the other hand, decreased by 5.4 percent during the quarter, dampening the overall growth in livestock production to a marginal increase of 0.3 percent. Marine exports rose 30.4 percent during the period, largely due to a 96.2 percent growth in conch exports and 43.7 percent growth in shrimp exports. The effect of these increases was sufficiently significant to overshadow a 39.5 percent decline in sugarcane deliveries, as this industry was impacted by a longer dry period during the quarter.

SECONDARY ACTIVITIES: The secondary sector, which accounts for almost one fifth of the total economy, declined by 9.6 percent during the fourth quarter of 2018. ‘Electricity & Water’ production fell by 24 percent, despite a 4.5 percent increase in water production, as the lack of rainfall during this period caused a 28.3 percent decline in electricity generation (see Figure 4). Petroleum production continued its downward trajectory, falling by 11 percent, due to the natural depletion of reservoirs. Flour production was affected by a significant rise in the volume of imported flour in the market, leading to a 12.5 percent decline in production of this item. With the decrease in sugarcane deliveries, sugar production also fell by 43.4 percent. Nonetheless, there were some positive performances within the secondary sector. Beer production, spurred by heightened market demand, rose by 9.8 percent during the quarter, as did production of orange concentrate, which was up by 6.1 percent and grapefruit concentrate, which grew by 125 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2017. The “Construction” Industry grew 4.2 percent, as reflected in a 4.1 percent increase in loans for construction.

TERTIARY ACTIVITIES: The services sector, which comprises more than a half of the national economy, grew by 2 percent during the fourth quarter of 2018, when compared to the same period of 2017. The ‘Hotels and Restaurants’ subsector expanded by 7.4 percent, boosted by the addition of more direct flights to Belize and the resulting 9.6 percent rise in overall tourist arrivals. The number of visitors from the United States of America rose by 10.8 percent, while the number of European tourists was up 6.2 percent and Canadian visitors increased by 13.1 percent. Cruise visitors also grew by a substantial 17.2 percent, with the addition of 11 cruise ship calls during the quarter (see Figure 5). ‘Government Services’ rose by 2.6 percent, while ‘Wholesale and Retail Trade’ recorded a 2.3 percent increase during the period.

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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)