By Benjamin Flowers
Belize’s Gross Domestic Product for the first quarter of 2014 declined by 0.4 percent.
The decline in GDP follows eight consecutive quarters of positive growth, the Statistical Institute of Belize’s data states.
The decline was largely attributed to decreased output in three main sectors: agriculture, oil and manufacturing.
The agricultural sector suffered from a down turn in citrus production and a late start of the sugar cane harvest.
Banana production also decreased due to unfavourable weather. The total decline of those three industries represented a 30 percent or $26 million decrease in earnings when compared to April 2013.
Oil production remains in free fall, dropping down to its lowest since production began in 2006. Due to declining production only two shipments of oil was exported in the first quarter, causing a $17 million loss for the industry.
The manufacturing sector suffered as a direct result of the agricultural decline, recording a 17 percent decrease.
Glenn Avilez, director general of the SIB, explained that the negative first quarter is no cause for alarm.
He added that the economy has three more quarters in which to recover. He also said that there were some industries which managed to see growth despite the declines.
“Marine products have increased by $5-$6 million dollars, and that is mainly due to the performance of shrimp farming.
Beer production was up by almost 7 percent, and this is encouraging, given that there are increased imports.”
Inflation stood 1.3 percent when compared to April 2013, which brings the inflation rate for the first four months of 2014 to 1.6 percent.
Food items, particularly vegetables, were on the rise. Onions, cabbages, lettuce, carrots, red kidney and black beans all had price increases of 20 percent. Sweet peppers and tomatoes remained virtually unchanged. The price of a pound of ground beef also rose from $4.55 to $5.31.
First quarter external trade statistics recorded that imports rose by 1.3 percent, representing a value of 2.1 million. There was, however, a marked 29 percent decrease in importation of goods into free zones.
At the end of the first four months, import spending was up 24 percent to a little over $600 million, the bulk of which attributed to machinery transport equipment and manufactured goods.