Features — 30 January 2016 — by Adele Ramos

BELIZE CITY, Wed. Jan. 27, 2016–External trade statistics just in, indicate that Belize’s export sector experienced a depressed year in 2015, with total exports down to $535.33 million—the lowest since 2009. Meanwhile, the country’s import bill hit a new record, at roughly $2.1 billion for 2015.

Belize experienced its fourth consecutive decline in annual export earnings since 2012, which correlates directly with a fall-off in earnings from crude oil sales, which hit its peak in 2010.

Change-in-Belize's-external

The Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB), in its latest trade bulletin, informed that “plunging world prices resulted in a 64 percent drop in the country’s crude petroleum earnings from $102 million in 2014 to $36 million for the year 2015.”

Export earnings have been falling every year since peaking at $680 million in 2011

In fact, there was no crude petroleum exported in December 2015, compared to almost $7 million in exports of that product in the same month of 2014.

On the import side, the impact of lower world market prices was positive, since consumers saved $72 million on fuel and related products. In December 2015 alone, the fuel bill was $3 million less than the same time last year.

Sugar was the year’s strongest performer, netting $24 million more in 2015, for total sales of $134 million

Three of the country’s major domestic exports, marine products, crude petroleum and bananas, all declined during the month of December 2015. Marine fisheries sales fell sharply from $11 million to $4 million, primarily due to an $8 million drop in shrimp export earnings, while banana sales dropped by almost $3 million in December.

2015-was-a-sweet-year-for-s

Domestic exports for the year 2015 totaled $535.3 million, down 12.9 percent or $79.1 million from the $614.4 million recorded for 2014. However, two of Belize’s major export commodities did well: Sugar was the year’s strongest performer among the major exports, rising by almost one fifth and recording earnings of $24 million more in earnings than it did for the year 2014 for total earnings of $134 million in 2015, the SIB noted. It added that, “Despite challenges in the earlier months of the year, orange concentrate sales experienced a boost in the latter months of 2015, recording total export earnings of $89 million, a mere $1 million shy of earnings for the year 2014.”

December trade was impacted by higher demand in certain categories. This was reflected by a spike in turkey imports during the Christmas season, which led to a $2 million growth in the category of ‘Food and Live Animals’.

Despite a drastic decline in the cost of fuel, though, Belize’s import bill still increased—by 2.7% or $53.7 million over 2014.

Of note is that importation of vehicle parts and transportation equipment was substantially higher in 2015, costing consumers $79 million more than the previous year, eroding the savings made on fuel.

Also, the value of imports in the ‘Manufactured Goods’ category rose by $26 million, due to greater purchases of tires and steel within the year, the SIB said.

Amandala’s review of the data since 2005 revealed that Belize’s import bill, at roughly $2 billion, is more than four times its export earnings, which stood at roughly half-a-billion dollars at the close of the year. Belize’s import bill hit a new record in 2015—up by almost 70% from over a decade ago. Meanwhile, export earnings are only 26% higher.

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