By Aaron Humes: It was a down year for Belize’s trade balance, which according to the Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB) widened as Belize imported more and exported less.
Meanwhile, Belizeans continue to pay slightly less for the cost of living as at the end of 2015.
Merchandise imports for the year 2015 totaled $2.1 billion, an increase of 2.7 percent or $53.7 million over the total value of goods imported during the twelve months of 2014.
‘Machinery and Transport Equipment’ saw the greatest growth during the year, rising by almost $79 million as a result of increased purchases of vehicle parts and transportation equipment. ‘Manufactured Goods’ rose by $26 million, due to greater purchases of tires and steel within the year. ‘Chemical Products grew by $15.6 million, the result of a steady upward trend in the importation of fertilizer, while laboratory equipment purchases led to a $15 million rise in imports of ‘Other Manufactures’. On the other hand, $72 million less was spent on ‘Mineral Fuel and Lubricants’ as world fuel prices remained low throughout the year.
However, domestic exports for the year 2015 totaled $535.3 million, down 12.9 percent or $79.1 million from the $614.4 million recorded for 2014.
Sugar was the year’s strongest performer among the major exports, rising by almost one fifth and recording $24 million more in earnings than it did for the year 2014. Despite challenges in the earlier months of the year, orange concentrate sales experienced a boost in the latter months of 2015, recording total export earnings of $89 million, a mere $1 million shy of earnings for the year 2014. Marine and crude petroleum exports both declined notably over the period. The former saw a drop in earnings from $113 million to $88 million, due to a one third reduction in shrimp sales on the export market, while plunging world prices resulted in a 64 percent drop in the country’s crude petroleum earnings from $102 million in 2014 to $36 million for the year 2015.
In December, the gap between imports and exports was some $159 million, due to decreases for banana, sugar and petroleum.
The inflation rate in December was negative zero point seven percent, and the national rate for 2015 was negative zero point nine percent.
Contributing to this was a decrease in prices for fuels and international airfares; however, food prices, on average, showed no change when compared to December 2014. Although price increases were seen across all types of meats, these were offset by lower prices for red kidney beans and various fresh vegetables, including carrots and onions.
Within the category of “Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels” an increase of 2.2 percent in home rental prices overshadowed a 20 percent decline in electricity rates and a steep drop in the price of Liquefied Petroleum Gas. In the case of the latter, the average price for a 100 pound cylinder fell from $109.26 in December 2014 to $83.88 in December 2015, a decline of 23 percent.
While most municipalities recorded decreases in consumer prices during the month, Dangriga and Punta Gorda had inflation rates of 2.7 percent and 1.0 percent, respectively. Home rental prices and food prices were among the highest in these areas. On the other hand, the largest decline was recorded in Belmopan, which had an inflation rate of negative 2.9 percent, largely due to lower prices recorded for food and home rental costs.
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