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May 27, 2020

G.D.P. Declines for Fourth Consecutive Quarter

The numbers from the Statistical Institute of Belize show that the economy shrunk considerably.  It declined by four point five percent in the first quarter of this year. Prices of goods and services remain pretty much the same when compared to last year. And domestic imports and exports are down by thirty point four percent and two point seven percent respectively for the month of April. That’s a summary of the latest report coming out of the Statistical Institute of Belize for the first quarter of 2020. Here’s Andrea Polanco the story with a look at how some of the sectors performed for the first three months of this year.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Belize’s economy declines for a fourth time in a row – but this most recent decline in the first quarter of this year is the first decline of a first quarter since 2014.  According to the S.I.B, there’s an overall production of goods and services fell by four point five percent in for the first three months of this year when compared to the same time last year. The total value of goods and services fell by thirty-three million point four million dollars across all sectors, which resulted largely from drought and COVID-19 restrictions. In the primary sector, agriculture, hunting and forestry contracted, as well as fishing. In the secondary industry, production outputs fell by thirteen percent overall, recording declines in manufacturing, electricity and water, as well as construction.


Jacqueline Sabal

Jacqueline Sabal, Statistician II, S.I.B.

“In terms of agriculture, banana output decreased marginally by zero point three percent from twenty-six point three thousand metric tonnes from the first quarter of 2019 to twenty-six point two thousand metric tonnes in the first quarter of 2020, as the industry tried to recover from low production figures in 2019 due to unfavorable weather condition. In the case of sugar cane production, dry weather resulted in under developed sugar cane. This decreased sugar cane deliveries by twenty point seven percent from seven hundred and sixty point eight thousand metric tonnes delivered in quarter one of 2019 to six hundred and two pint nine thousand metric tonnes delivered in quarter one of 2020. Since 2015, citrus fruit production has been steadily declining during the months of January to March. In 2020, production declined by three point seven percent or two point two thousand metric tonnes when compared to quarter one of 2019. Due to unfavorable weather conditions, the fruits weren’t harvested and will mature later in the season.   Within the manufacturing and mining industry, sugar production suffered from a decline in sugar delivery and also increase mud levels in the cane resulted in a slower grinding rate which then requires more efforts to extract sugar. This coupled with stoppage for factory maintenance contributed to decreased sugar production. Sugar production in the first quarter of 2020 stood at fifty-five point three thousand metric tonnes compared to 2019 where eighty-four point five metric tonnes of sugar was produced. Beverage production declined by one pint two percent, this came as a result of a four point six percent increase in soft drink production and a four point four decline in Beer production for the same period.”


In trade, imports are down for January to April of 2020 by fourteen point five million dollars or two point four percent for the same period of 2019. The SIB reports that for April of this year alone, Belize imported one hundred and two point six million dollars in goods – which is forty-four point eight million dollars or thirty-four percent less than the same month of last year. Exports in January to April of 2020 were one hundred and ten point one million dollars – down by thirty-point three million dollars or thirty-point three for the same period. In April the exports stood at forty-seven point six million dollars which represents a decrease of two point seven. Again, COVID-19 and drought were major factors in the movement of merchandise.


Tiffany Vasquez

Tiffany Vasquez, Statistician II, S.I.B.

“A substantial decline in fuel expenditure in April of this year was the main reason for this downturn in imports. The minerals, fuels and lubricants category which consists of all of our major fuels including premium, regular, diesel and kerosene – a category which accounts of thirteen percent of all imports fell considerably by twenty-three million dollars –  seventy-three point six million dollars over the four month period – a drop due almost entirely to April’s fuel imports. One should note that notwithstanding the current lower world market prices for fuel, a decline of this magnitude was the direct impact of COVID-19, for in April of this year where Belizeans were at their least mobile due to restricted movements in accordance with the state of emergency, only a small shipment of regular fuel was imported into the country as the demand for fuels by local consumers simply wasn’t there.  Chemical products which accounted for ten percent of all imports rose by three point three million dollars to fifty-six point five million dollars, as the period saw boosted imports of fertilizers, along with hand sanitizers and disinfectants, the latter most likely linked to the demand of the new COVID-19 reality.  We observed that decrease earnings from sugar, citrus products, and crude petroleum led to this decline over this period, where as we had slightly improved earnings coming from bananas and marine products along with marked increases in the sales of red kidney beans and molasses – these gains were not enough to offset the downturn in overall export earnings. Our top export sugar experienced the greatest loss over the four month period, with earnings from sugar falling substantially by forty-one percent of eighteen point seven million dollars to twenty-six point four million as exported quantities of this commodity dropped by more than a half due to the impact of last year’s drought on our sugar cane. Earnings from citrus products went down by almost thirty-seven percent or nine point two million dollars to fifteen point nine million as the country exported smaller quantities of mainly orange concentration, grapefruit concentrate and grapefruit oil. Furthermore, having had no shipments of crude petroleum since the start of this year, earnings from this commodity declined by six million dollars which was the value of one shipment which was exported in January of last year.”


Consumer prices remain largely same for April of this year when compared to prices for goods and services in April 2019. There is a mere zero point zero two percent decrease from last April to this year’s April. A closer look at the figures, show that transportation costs were down – but other prices were up.


Melvin Perez

Melvin Perez, Statistician II, S.I.B.

“Looking at the major categories affecting the inflation rate, the housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels categories had an increase of zero point eight percent; the food and non-alcoholic beverages had a decrease of zero point five percent and the transport category had a decrease of zero point nine percent which was the main category exerting down ward pressure on the overall consumer price ind3ex. For the purpose of this present, we group the remaining goods and services under the all other categories of goods and services which had an increase of zero point two percent. It can be clearly seen that the decrease in the transportation was partially offset by the increase in housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels and the decrease in the food and non-alcoholic beverage categories was partially balanced by the all other categories of goods and services which had a decrease of  zero point two percent.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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