By Benjamin Fllowers
The economy has grown by 8.7 percent above last year, the best recorded second quarter growth since 2009, while imports continue to exceed exports according to the latest data released by the Statistical Institute of Belize.
The SIB presented the Gross Domestic Product and the External Trade Statistics at a press conference held in the Central Bank conference room on Wednesday. The data attributed the growth to increased production in most economic sectors including agriculture, electricity and water, hotels and restaurants, and manufacturing for the months of April through July.
The sugarcane industry, due to increased efficiency investments, raised production by 68 percent; a similar increase was felt in the citrus industry, recording increases of 58 percent. Beer manufacturing went up due to a rising demand in the local market, while the export market caused a rise in the production of rum.
Favourable weather conditions raised Hydro electricity production by 43 percent. Ongoing municipal and rural infrastructure projects continued to increase the sector’s output, recording an increase of 7 percent this quarter. Increasing overnight and cruise tourism visitors grew that industry by some 22 percent when compared to the same period in 2013.
Several products, including bananas, soft drinks and fishing, did experience slight decreases. Government services also recorded decreases. Shrimp and conch sales decreased by 6.4 and 69 percent, respectively, representing an estimated total cash value of $2.5 million.
When comparing second quarter GDP results since 2009, the data showed that this year’s 8.7 percent is the highest in six years, followed by 2012, with 4.7 percent, and 2013 with 1.8 percent.
SIB also presented regional data showing that the United States’ second quarter growth was 4 percent, while Mexico recorded 1.04 percent.
Second quarter imports were up 7.5 percent or $12. 9 million, raising the amount from last year’s $172.1 million to $189.4 million. SIB highlighted increased costs in machinery and transport equipment as one of the main factors.
“Imports of diesel rose by $4.6 million in comparison with last July, while those of four cylinder passenger vehicles grew by $2.5 million. A $2 million increase in goods destined for the export processing zones was offset by a drop of the same amount in commercial free zone imports,” the SIB said.
During the first seven months of this year Belize imported goods totalling $1.1 billion, 6.4 percent or $68.4 million more than the same period of 2013. Intermediate goods accounted for one-third of all imports, with the most significant expenditure being on building cement and steel rods.
The largest source of imports was the USA, with $346 million or 30 percent of the total imports. Those imports increased by 46 million. The second largest importer was Central America, responsible for 15 percent of the imports or $174 million. Those imports increased by $24 million.
Exports fell from $445.7 to $390.3 million, representing a decline of $55.4 million or 12.4% below 2013.
The European Union was our largest source of revenue with $156 million or 40 percent of exports. The USA accounted for $140 million or 36 percent of export receipts. CARICOM and Mexico represented $38 and $36 million, respectively.
Crude petroleum, Sugar and Orange concentrate combined for a decrease of $49 million of the total $55.4 million decrease. Jefete Ochaeta, statistician with the SIB, explained that while sugar production has increased, the industry’s decline is because the some of the milled sugar has not yet been sold. He added that the drop in oil production was expected.
“As you know the Spanish Lookout field is producing less oil every year, so unless more oil is found the industry will continue to decline,” Ochaeta said.