Features — 07 April 2018 — by Colin Hyde
Belize exports for February down 11.6%

A report from the Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB), dated March 28, 2018, shows that Belize’s domestic exports for the month of February were down 11.6% when compared to domestic exports in February last year, 2017. SIB statistics for the last six years show that domestic exports in February have been trending downward, with a steep drop recorded in February 2016.

In February 2015, Belize’s domestic exports valued BZ$57.9 million, while domestic exports recorded for February 2016 were BZ$29.6 million, a 49 % drop. The fall is even steeper when we compare this year with exports in February 2013. In February 2013 Belize’s domestic exports valued BZ$63.4million, while our domestic exports for the month this year value only BZ$22.8million, a BZ$40.6million drop, or 64%.

The SIB cites substantially reduced earnings from the export of bananas and marine products, and a small drop in citrus products sales, for the diminished foreign earnings in domestic exports in February 2018. Sugar was the bright industry of the month, with the value of its domestic exports more than doubling.

The continuing discouraging news on the front is the state of the shrimp industry, whose star has taken a mighty fall. Within two decades of the establishment of the shrimp industry, it had become a top export earner, topping out in 2004 at BZ$84.3million.  A complex of diseases has the industry struggling to survive. While sugar production is up in Belize, it is worrying that the price of the commodity on the world market is falling.

The ray of hope is in the citrus industry, where a couple thousand acres of new groves are just coming into production. The good news for the country is that domestic exports of citrus products are expected to rise in the coming years. But it is a question how much benefits the hard-working farmers of Belize will derive from their increased labor. The cost of production in this industry has increased considerably since Citrus Greening became a reality in Cayo and the Stann Creek Citrus Belt.

(SIB Report) DOMESTIC EXPORTS FEBRUARY 2018: The total value of Belize’s domestic exports for the month of February 2018 were $22.8 million, down 11.6 percent or nearly $3 million from the $25.8 million recorded for February 2017. The considerable decline in total export earnings was primarily due to reduced exports of both bananas and marine products during the month. Sales of bananas fell by $2 million, from $7.2 million in February of 2017 to $5.2 million in February 2018, while marine exports dropped by $1.5 million, from $4.7 million to $3.2 million, largely owing to dwindling shrimp sales. Citrus exports diminished slightly, from $6.1 million in February 2017 to $6 million in February 2018, notwithstanding a small gain of $0.8 million in orange concentrate sales, as reductions were recorded in grapefruit concentrate and orange oil exports for the month. Sugar was the only major export to have recorded substantial growth during the month, as earnings from that commodity more than doubled from $1.7 million in February 2017 to $3.5 million in the same month this year. Exports to the United Kingdom fell by one-fourth, or $2.2 million, from $8.9 million to $6.7 million, owing in part to a drop in banana sales, but due mostly to the fact that no shrimp was exported to that country in February of this year. Earnings from domestic exports to the United States declined by over a third or $2.1 million, from $6.2 million in February 2017 to $4.1 million in February 2018, as there were no exports of lime and orange oils to that country for the month. Conch and orange concentrate exports to the US also declined, with orange concentrate expanding to other markets in February of 2018. Mexico, on the other hand, saw an increase in the amount of Belize’s exports which it received for the month of February, growing from $0.01 million in 2017 to $1.1 million in 2018, due almost entirely to sales of lobster tail, a product which was not exported to Mexico during last February.

FIRST TWO MONTHS OF THE YEAR:

Merchandise exports for the period January to February 2018 totalled $48.5 million, down 19.6 percent or $11.8 million from the $60.3 million recorded during same period last year. Sizeable reductions in three of Belize’s major exports, namely sugar, bananas and marine products, led to the overall downturn in export revenues over the two-month period. Earnings from sugar fell by $7.5 million, from $13.6 million in 2017 to $6.1 million in 2018, owing solely to the timing of shipments of bulk sugar. While sugar sales for the period January to February 2017 included a bulk shipment of significant value, the first shipment of bulk sugar for 2018, is not scheduled to be exported until March. Likewise, banana exports fell considerably by 31 percent or $4.7 million, from over $15 million in the first two months of last year to $10.3 million in the same period of 2018, as heavy rains at the start of this year greatly affected that commodity. Exports of marine products declined from $8.4 million to $5.2 million, due mostly to lessened shrimp sales in the first two months of the year compared with the first two months of 2017. On the other hand, exports from citrus products for the period January to February 2018 exceeded that of the same period last year, as earnings rose by $1.8 million, from $8.1 million in 2017 to $9.9 million in 2018, due to largely to increased orange concentrate exports, coupled with strong sales of grapefruit concentrate and grapefruit oil. Additionally, due to favourable world market prices for crude petroleum, revenues for that commodity grew by a third, from $5.8 million to $7.7 million, despite having almost no change in the exported volumes over the two-month period.

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