GDP grew by 1.1% for the first 7 months of the year
BELIZE CITY, Wed. Aug. 30, 2017–Despite a 5.3% contraction in imports, Belize’s import bill exceeded a billion dollars for the first seven months of 2017, more than tripling the value of Belize’s domestic exports for the same period. Although imports were down by almost $60 million, exports were up by roughly 16% or $43 million, largely due to strong performance in Belize’s agricultural sector, according to the latest releases by the Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB).
Statistician Tiffany Vasquez told the media at a press conference held today that Belize imported $212 million worth of items in the machinery and transport category, including telecommunications parts, vehicles and agricultural equipment, while it imported $125 million worth of items in the foods, and live animals category, including wheat seeds and coffee.
Imports destined for the commercial free zone and export processing zone had a total value of $184 million, while imports in the mineral fuels and lubricants category totaled $129 million. Imports of chemicals (including antibiotics, medical supplies and fertilizers) were valued at $109 million for the period.
The bulk of Belize’s imports (36% or $373 million worth of imports) come from the USA, with other major source countries being located in Central America, Europe and Asia. The UK and the US import the bulk of Belize’s domestic exports, at $124 million and $60 million, respectively.
On the export side, exports of sugar—which Vasquez said accounts for a third of Belize’s domestic exports and is thus Belize’s most significant export earner—were valued at $109 million. Citrus was second in line, with a value of $62.8 million, although that commodity saw a decline of $12.6 million from the same period last year largely due to a fall in orange concentrate sales, despite strong sales of orange oil. Banana exports earned $46.7 million, fisheries earned $21 million and crude oil earned $16.5 million.
All in all, the Belize economy is said to be on the rebound, after a depression in 2016, and according to data released today by the Statistical Institute of Belize, the economy registered growth of 1.1% for the first half of 2017.
Statistician Angelita Campbell said that second quarter GDP recorded the highest value over the last six years at $737 million, which represents an increase of $8 million over the same period last year.
The primary sector recorded a growth of 4.1% or an expansion of $13.2 million, with increases recorded for the production of sugar and citrus, and fishing, but a decline was recorded for the production of bananas, which fell from 23,000 metric tons to 19,000 metric tons. The most notable expansion in this sector was seen for citrus, which recorded growth of roughly 32%, due largely to an increase in the number of oranges delivered due to late blooming of fruits. The production of citrus concentrate was up 30%, while the production of sugar was up 18%.
In the secondary sector, the production of petroleum was down by 18%, falling below 100,000 barrels for the quarter. Beverage production was also down due to increased imports. Soft drink production was down by as much as 20%.
Information supplied to us upon request by the SIB indicates that imports from CARICOM—largely constituted by beverages and tobacco—were slightly down from $30.2 million to $28.9 million, but imports of aerated beverages from Jamaica were up from roughly $215,000 to about $1.5 million, and imports of tobacco from Trinidad were up from $4.1 million to $4.9 million.
Production in the tertiary sector was up 1.7%, although wholesale and retail trade was down 2.3% and production in the hotels and restaurants sector was down 2.4%. According to Campbell, two less cruise ships docked in Belize for the period, driving arrivals of cruise tourists down from 216,000 to 206,000 for the period
Although there were 14,000 more overnight tourists visiting Belize for the period, room revenue was down due to a shift in the sector which has seen tourists opt to stay in budget accommodations rather than traditional hotels, Campbell explained.