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A cargo ship docks in Belize City. (Photo Business View Caribbean)

Belize exports dipped 11% in 2020

A cargo ship docks in Belize City. (Photo Business View Caribbean)

The Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB) has reported that the Central American country’s merchandise exports contracted by 11.1 per cent for calendar year 2020.

Exports for 2020 totalled BZ$367.8 million or BZ$46.1 million less than the $414 million earned in 2019.

“Four of the five major commodities suffered significant losses in export earnings during the year 2020,” SIB wrote in its External Trade update for December 2020.

Declines in agriculture

Earnings from sugar, a major contributor to gross domestic product, fell by 18 per cent when compared to 2019. The agricultural commodity brought in BZ$111.5 million or 24.9 million less than the year before.

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

Overseas sales of citrus product also declined during last year as the country suffered the impact of “lower world market prices of orange concentrate, coupled with decreased export of grapefruit concentrate”. As a result, revenues from the commodity dipped 10 per cent to BZ$49.7 — or BZ$5.8 million less than funds collected in 2019.

Another sector that experienced declining exports last year was fisheries with marine products recording a 20 per cent fall-off in earnings, though the sale of lobster tails remained stable.

Fishermen discuss their lobster catch in Belize. Though the sale of lobster tails remained positive, the export of marine products declined in 2020.
(Photo: World Conservation Society Belize).

A single crude shipment

Of significance, revenues from crude petroleum drastically dropped by 75 per cent to BZ$4.9, as against BZ$ 20.3 in the previous year.

According to SIB, “The country exported only one bulk shipment of crude petroleum for the whole year of 2020, while 2019 saw three shipments of this commodity being made.”

There were also decreased earnings for red kidney beans and sawn wood.

Oranges harvested in Belize’s 2019 season. Export of citrus in 2020 reduced by 10 per cent. (Photo: CARICOM Today)

Positive growth

In contrast, the banana was one of two commodities to boast a positive trade record — of 10 per cent — in 2020. Earnings from the export of banana increased from BZ$79.5 million in 2019 to BZ$87.5 million in the year under review.

The other positive trade record came from export of animal feeds as earnings grew from BZ$11.4 million to BZ$15.2 million.

The United Kingdom, European Union and Caricom were the top three consumers of Belize’s exports during the year with the US, Central America and Mexico following.

Imports fall

In a year marked by travel restrictions and country, Belize also saw its imports decline. Total outflow for 2020 reached BZ$1.6 billion, which was 20.2 per cent or BZ$397.6 million lower than that record a year earlier.

The categories that reported declines include mineral fuels and lubricants, commercial free zones, machinery and transport equipment, and manufactured goods.