BELMOPAN, Thurs. Oct. 1, 2015–Domestic exports fell by almost half last year’s figure – by a whopping 55.4%, down from roughly $76 million last August to a mere $33.9 million this August, according to data just released by the Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB).
“Sugar sales accounted for the largest share of this decline, as exports fell from $34 million to $1 million. This steep drop in comparison to last August reflected a shift in the timing of sugar shipments, such that only bagged sugar was exported in August 2015, while a large bulk sugar shipment is expected in September,” the SIB said.
It added that earnings from crude petroleum dropped sharply by $8 million (a decline of 66.7%), from $12 million during August 2014 to $4 million in August 2015, largely due to lower world market prices.
Marine exports, which are usually among the strongest export performers, fell by 42%, from $12 million to $7 million, owing to reduced farm shrimp sales, compared to the same month last year.
However, citrus exports did well, having resurged during the month of August 2015, with exports doubling from $4 million in last August to $8 million, due to strong orange concentrate sales.
The SIB reports that for the first 8 months of 2015, merchandise exports totaled $401.9 million, a 15 percent or $70.9 million drop from the same eight months last year.
“Crude petroleum exports fell steeply during the period, from $77 million to $28 million, as less petroleum was exported and at a much lower price than in 2014. Despite the stronger performance during the month of August 2015, citrus concentrate sales declined by over $9 during the first eight months of 2015, from $80 million to $71 million. Exports of bananas, on the other hand, were up by $4.5 million from $62 million to over $66 million during the first nine months of the year,” the SIB detailed.
While export earnings have been on a decline, the import bill continues to grow, with Belize having imported $1.3 billion worth of goods from January to August 2015. This represents a 3.6% or $46.6 million increase over the same period last year, the SIB notes.
It explained that imports of ‘Machinery and Transport Equipment’, ‘Manufactured Goods’ and goods going to the ‘Commercial Free Zones’ were the categories experiencing the greatest growth, increasing by $42 million, $20 million and $14 million, respectively.
However, “lower world market prices meant that $47 million less was spent on ‘Mineral Fuels and Lubricants’, although the quantity of fuel imported grew by almost one third during the period,” the SIB said.
Belize’s import bill for August 2015 was $154.8 million, $3.7 million (or 2.3%) lower than last August, when the country imported $158.5 million worth of goods, partly due to a decline in imports of clothing and shrimp feed for that month.