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An aerial view of a section of Belize city. (Photo: International Environments)

Belize economy contracts by 23.3% in Q2 2020

An aerial view of a section of Belize city. (Photo: International Environments)

The Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB) has estimated that for the April to June period in 2020, the Central American country lost 23.3 per cent in gross domestic product when compared to 2019,  as the country’s overall level of economic activity declined during the period.

All three sectors — primary, secondary and tertiary — reported declines.

The services sector, which comprises almost two-thirds of Belize’s economy, was the most severely impacted by COVID-19, recording a significant 23.2 per cent decline in output over the three-month period. (Photo: Ambergris Today)

“The total value of goods and services produced within Belize during the period were valued at [BZ]$558.6 million, down by [BZ]$169.9 million from [BZ]$728.5 million produced during the same three months of 2019. This marked the country’s fifth-consecutive quarterly period of economic contraction, with this latest estimate being the largest quarterly decline to date,” the report stated.

There was no denying that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic significantly contributed to the falloff in productivity, but SIB also attributed the loss to the impact of “extended dry weather conditions”.

Tertiary-level declines

In the tertiary sector, the Wholesale and Retail Trade and Hotels and Restaurants industries experienced the heaviest reductions in output and accounted for half of the overall reduction in total output for the quarter.

According to the report, “The services sector, which comprises almost two-thirds of Belize’s economy, was the most severely impacted by COVID-19, recording a significant 23.2 per cent decline in output over the three-month period.”

With the Belize’s borders closed to tourist visitors, activities within the ‘Hotels and Restaurants’ subsector were at a near standstill during the period, recording a dramatic decrease of 99.4 per cent. (Photo: jhumbrachtphotography.com)

Drought conditions still affecting agriculture

In the primary sector, where agriculture is the mainstay activity, the decline in sugar cane production continued to stymie growth.

“Sugar cane production declined considerably by 14 per cent, as dry weather conditions in 2019 and early 2020 affected crops harvested during the reference period. Deliveries of this crop dropped from 860.7 thousand metric tons in the second quarter of 2019 to 740 thousand metric tons in the second quarter of 2020,” the SIB report outlined.

A worker for the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association harvesting sugar cane by hand. (Photo: Fair Trade)

Meanwhile, other subsectors also reported reduction in production. Livestock production, for instance, fell by 36.9 per cent as there was also a significant decline in cattle production and exports. Due to decreased demand, the poultry industry recorded a 29.4 per cent reduction in output.

In the fisheries industry, an 84.8 per cent plunge in conch exports and 63.3 per cent dip shrimp exports both outweighed gains from the export of lobster tails.

“In contrast, the banana and citrus industries both performed well during the quarter, somewhat mitigating the major reductions in other areas within the sector. Better weather conditions, which led to improved plant health and maturity, along with an increase in acreage, resulted in a 12.1 per cent rise in banana production. This industry saw output increase from 24 thousand metric tons in the second quarter of 2019 to 26.9 thousand metric tons in the second quarter of 2020,” the report said.

Oranges harvested in Belize’s 2019 season. (Photo: CARICOM Today)

Travel restrictions a big dampener

Over in the second sector, activities contracted by 19.5 per cent in the period under review, with earnings falling from BZ$106.6 million in the second quarter of last year to BZ$85.8 million in the current year.

“Within this sector, the ‘Manufacturing and Mining’ industry saw output fall by 22.5 per cent,” SIB explained.

Furthermore, restrictions on travelling and the closure of restaurants and bars during the period contributed to a slump in the beverage production subsector, which includes alcohol.

Nationwide restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted land, sea and air transportation, resulting in a 28.8 per cent decline in the ‘Transport, Storage and Communication’ subsector when compared to the second quarter of last year.
(Photo Business View Caribbean)

“Production within this sector was down by [BZ]$101.9 million, from [BZ]$439.2 million in the second quarter of 2019 to [BZ]$337.4 million in the second quarter of 2020. With the country’s borders closed to tourist visitors, activities within the ‘Hotels and Restaurants’ subsector were at a near standstill during the period, recording a dramatic decrease of 99.4 per cent,” the SIB report highlighted.

“Nationwide restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted land, sea and air transportation, resulting in a 28.8 per cent decline in the ‘Transport, Storage and Communication’ subsector when compared to the second quarter of last year. The only industry within the tertiary sector recording some growth was ‘Government Services’, which was up by 1.8 per cent,” it added.