BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Nov. 28, 2019– The SIB (Statistical Institute of Belize) report card on the performance of Belize’s economy shows that the economy grew 1.8% between July and September, the unemployment rate was 10.4% in September, domestic exports were up 2.3% for the first 10 months of 2019 over the same period last year, and imports for the first 10 months were up 2% over the same period last year.
Economy grew 1.8%
Belize’s economy grew 1.8% from July to September 2019 when compared to the same period last year, with the total value of goods produced in the quarter up $11.5 million, from $663.1 million in 2018 to $651.6 million in 2019. Production was up 4.5% in the secondary sector (1/5th of our economy), 1.9% in the tertiary sector (1/2 of our economy), while production in the primary sector, which accounts for 1/10th of our economy, contracted by 4.3%.
PRIMARY ACTIVITIES for the quarter: “Dry weather conditions affected banana production, resulting in a decrease in output from 25 thousand metric tons in the third quarter of 2018 to 22.9 thousand metric tons in 2019…Despite a strong performance in lobster tail and lobster meat exports, the fishing industry also experienced a 37 percent decrease, as no conch was exported during the quarter and shrimp exports dropped considerably by 76 percent…The livestock industry recorded a marginal 0.5 percent increase for the quarter, with increased market demand driving an 8.3 percent rise in poultry production and a 1.6 percent increase in pig production, while a combination of dry weather conditions and a decrease in market prices led to a 27.1 percent drop in cattle production…an extended milling season lasting into the month of July of 2019 resulted in an additional 81.5 thousand metric tons of sugarcane being delivered, compared to the third quarter of last year…a late start to the harvesting period for the first crop of oranges resulted in a slight 0.8 percent increase in citrus fruit deliveries in the third quarter.” (SIB)
SECONDARY ACTIVITIES for the quarter: “Due to the additional sugarcane deliveries during the period, the sugar industry saw production totaling 9,080 metric tons…The ‘Electricity and Water’ subsector recorded a 10.7 percent increase in total output. Prolonged dry weather conditions drove an increase in the demand for water, resulting in a 9.1 percent rise in water production, while electricity generation rose 11.9 percent due to increased production by non-hydroelectric power producers. Despite the continued natural depletion of crude petroleum and a 1.6 percent drop in flour production, the ‘Manufacturing and Mining’ subsector experienced growth of 11 percent. Due to a rise in citrus deliveries, an additional 14.8 thousand gallons of orange concentrate was produced during the quarter, while soft drink and beer production also recorded increases due to a rise in market demand during the period. The ‘Construction’ subsector saw an 18.3 percent decline in production, as reflected in a substantial drop in loans for construction for the third quarter of the year.” (SIB)
TERTIARY ACTIVITIES for the quarter: “Wholesale and Retail’ activities rose by 1.2 percent during the quarter, while ‘Government Services’ increased by 4.6 percent. The ‘Transport, Storage and Communication’ subsector also expanded by 4.2 percent, mainly due to a 2.7 percent rise in freight shipping. On the other hand, the ‘Hotels and Restaurants’ subsector decreased by 11.1 percent in the third quarter. Tourist arrivals were down as the total number of overnight visitors to the country fell from 102,599 persons in the third quarter of 2018 to 98,605 persons in the same period of 2019, while cruise ship arrivals were down by 20.7 percent from 240,484 to 190,610. These reductions in the number of visitors corresponded to a 6.2 percent fall in hotel revenues as well as 13 fewer cruise ship calls during this period.” (SIB)
Unemployment rate up to 10.4%
The SIB reports that between April and September 2019 the economy showed an increase of 5,600 jobs; however the unemployment rate went from 7.7% in April to 10.4% in September. The SIB says the increased unemployment rate “was primarily due to more persons, especially women, entering the labor force than there were new jobs available.”
The SIB says that 44% of the labor force have not completed more than a primary level education, slightly less than 25% have secondary level education, and about 17% have completed tertiary level studies.
“Among the ten major occupation classifications, the largest gains in employment were seen in ‘Services and Sales Workers’ and ‘Elementary Occupations’, with these two categories combined accounting for a half of all jobs in the country…Most new jobs were found in the Cayo district, particularly in the ‘Wholesale and Retail Trade’ and ‘Tourism’ industries. These two industries also contributed the largest numbers to total employment within the country, with 18.3 percent of all jobs being in ‘Wholesale and Retail Trade’ and 17.2 percent being provided by the ‘Tourism’ industry,” states the SIB report.
The SIB report also mentions that, “Paid employees accounted for 62 percent of all employed persons in September of 2019, down from 67 percent in April, while the shares comprised of self-employed and unpaid family workers both increased…Underemployed: The total number of underemployed persons, those usually working less than 35 hours per week, was 38,769 in September 2019, a sharp increase of more than 13,000 persons since April 2019.”
“Females continued to be twice as likely to be working less than full time hours, with 33 percent of working women classified as underemployed, compared to 16 percent among their male counterparts…Across the districts, Toledo showed the highest levels of underemployment at 36.7 percent of the employed population, while Stann Creek district registered the lowest at 13.8 percent,” the report further says. (SIB)
Cost of living up in Orange Walk, down in San Ignacio/Santa Elena
The SIB reported that in October 2019 there was little change in the cost of regularly purchased goods and services in Belize when compared with October 2018. The SIB says Belizeans paid a little more for “various food items, electricity tariffs and tertiary education fees”, but these increases were “offset by lower prices for rent, fuel and international airfares.”
The report says the “cumulative inflation rate for the first ten months in 2019, when compared to the same period in 2018, stood at 0.2 percent. The ‘Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages’ category saw an overall increase of 1.4 percent for the month of October 2019 when compared to October 2018. This upward change was due to significant increases in the prices of several fresh fruits and vegetables, including pineapples, sweet peppers, tomatoes, cabbages, onions and lettuce. Also contributing to the rise in this category were meat products, such as pork chops and pig tail, which also recorded higher prices during October 2019. The effect of these increases, however, was partly offset by decreased prices for other items such as ground beef, beef steak, whole chickens, red kidney beans, limes and watermelons.” (SIB)
Fuel was cheaper in October 2019 than it was in October 2018. A gallon of premium gasoline cost $11.83 in October 2018 and $10.70 in October 2019, a gallon of regular gasoline cost $11.25 in October 2018 and $10.37 in October 2019, and a gallon of diesel cost $10.75 in October 2018 and $10.11 in October 2019. However the cost of a 100-pound cylinder of butane was up by 0.8 percent, and electricity cost more in October 2019 than it did in October 2018 due to “a 5.2 percent increase in electricity tariffs, the result of increased rates which took effect in early 2019.”
“With an inflation rate of 2.7 percent, Orange Walk Town experienced the highest rate of increase in consumer prices in October 2019. Consumers in this town saw above average increases in prices for food items, home rental costs, LPG, and men’s and women’s clothing. Meanwhile, the twin towns of San Ignacio/Santa Elena experienced the lowest inflation rate, with prices going down by 1.9 percent, as consumers in these municipalities saw a larger than average reduction in home rental costs when compared to October 2018,” states the SIB. (SIB)
Merchandize exports up 2.3% Jan-Oct 2019 over Jan-Oct 2018
“Sugar surged by 25.1 percent during the ten-month period, generating an increase of $22.9 million in earnings…from $109.4 million in 2018 to $132.3 million in 2019; bananas rose by nearly $4 million…from $61.3 million in 2018 to $65.3 million in 2019; red kidney beans grew from $7.9 million in 2018 to $11.6 million in 2019; and marine products went up by $3.4 million, from $31.9 million to $35.3 million, due mainly to favorable world market prices for lobster tails and conch.
“Citrus products declined by 25.8 percent or more than $17 million, falling from $67.3 million in 2018 to less than $50 million in 2019… there were two shipments (of crude petroleum) made during the first ten months of 2019, compared to three shipments made during the same time period in 2018 (and) as a result, earnings from this commodity fell steeply by 47.5 percent or $11.7 million, from $24.6 million in 2018 to $12.9 million in 2019.” (SIB)
Domestic exports down 24.8% in October 2019
Crude petroleum earned $8.7 million in October 2018, but, because of scheduling, reported no earnings in October 2019; revenue from banana exports declined from $8.3 million in October 2018 to $7.7 million in October 2019; sawn wood earned $0.07 million compared to $1.3 million in October 2018; and earnings from animal feed was less than $0.3 million in October 2019, down from $1.3 million in 2018.
Also, according to the SIB, “Revenues from citrus products went up by $1.2 million, from $3.1 million in October 2018 to $4.3 million in 2019…marine products rose by $1.1 million, from $5.8 million in October 2018 to $6.9 million in October 2019, due to better sales of conch and lobster tails, while revenues from sugar exports increased slightly during the month, growing from $2.2 million to $2.7 million.” (SIB)
Belize imported 4% less goods in Oct 2019 than in Oct 2018
Belize imported $185.2 million worth of goods in October 2019, $7.8 million less than in October 2018. The SIB says that prompted by marked reductions in purchases of fertilizer the ‘Chemical Products’ category fell by almost one-third; decreased imports of cigarettes and women’s clothing led to a $5.1 million decline in goods destined for the ‘Commercial Free Zones’; the ‘Food and Live Animals’ category also diminished by approximately $5 million…on account of smaller purchases of wheat seeds and lard (shortening); and the ‘Mineral Fuels and Lubricants’ category went down by $3.5 million (due to a drop in imports of regular gasoline).
Imports of ‘Machinery and Transport Equipment’ rose by $11 million in October of this year because of more purchases of computers, water filters and aircraft engines; imports in the ‘Crude Materials’ category grew from $3 million in October 2018 to $4.9 million in October 2019 because of more purchases of treated pine; and “larger imports of gold jewelry and wrist watches led to a $1.1 million increase in the ‘Other Manufactures’ category, from $13.5 million to $14.6 million.”
Merchandize imports up 2% Jan-Oct 2019 over Jan-Oct 2018
Belize imported $1.6 billion worth of merchandize between January and October 2019, $31.4 million more than in the same period last year.
The ‘Manufactured Goods’ category, with increased imports of metal structures, ceramic tiles and vehicle tires, was up more than $14 million; greater imports of diesel and kerosene led to a $13 million spike in the ‘Mineral Fuels and Lubricants’ category; $8.3 million more goods, mostly clothing and tennis shoes, went into the ‘Commercial Free Zones’; the ‘Crude Materials’ category, with greater imports of treated pine, increased by $6.0 million; imports of ‘Oils and Fats’ rose by $2.2 million; and imports in the ‘Food and Live Animals’ category grew by $2.1 million.
There were decreased purchases of surveying equipment, lamps and lighting fixtures in the ‘Other Manufactures’ category (imports down by $6.1 million); decreased purchases of food processing machinery, filtering equipment and shrimp feed in the ‘Designated Processing Areas’ category (imports down $5.7 million), and the ‘Chemical Products’ category, with reduced purchases of fertilizers and herbicides, was down $3.1 million.