Economic Growth Stunted by Challenges in Agricultural Sector Print E-mail
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Thursday, 27 February 2014 00:00

glen avilez.jpg - 65.78 KbIn 2013 the economy of Belize grew by 0.7 percent, according to the initial estimates from the Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB). 0.7 percent is significantly lower than the 4 percent growth in 2012 and even the 2.5 percent growth projected for 2013. The disappointing growth rate was a direct result of the significant decrease in production of citrus and sugarcane products. The citrus and sugar industries were injured by both natural and manmade disasters in 2013. However, the shortfall in the agriculture sector was offset by the growth in aquaculture with the rebound of shrimp exports. A second consecutive year of double digit growth in construction also acted as a boost to the economy as well as a record number of overnight tourist arrivals.

In 2013, production in fishing increased by 28 percent. Glen Avilez, Director General of SIB, says this was due in large part to the resumption of operations at the Belize Aquaculture Limited’s shrimp farm after nearly two years of closure. According to SIB, in 2013 farm shrimp grew by 81 percent to $51.6 million. Avilez says the construction sector was the second largest contributor to the economy’s performance with a growth of 16 percent. He attributes this growth to “a significant boost to public infrastructure projects such as those being carried out by the Belize City Council and Belize Municipal Development Project”. Tourist arrivals increased by 6 percent in 2013. There were a record number of overnight arrivals with over 294,000 foreigners spending at least one night in Belize. This increase in overnight tourist arrivals resulted in a 4 percent increase in hotels and restaurants services. One of the positives from the prolonged period of rain in 2013 was a 7 percent increase in electricity production. Government services also increased by 6 percent.

Oil production continued to decrease in 2013. In 2012 Belize produced approximately 1,030,000 barrels of oil. In 2013 the country only produced approximately 792,300 barrels, a decrease of 23 percent. Avilez believes that this trend will continue on its downward path. Agriculture was also down significantly with a decline in production of 13 percent. The citrus industry did not only return to earth from its bumper harvest in 2012 but it also fell through the floor. There was a decline in production of citrus fruit of 35 percent and a 40 percent decline in citrus concentrate. Avilez says the Citrus Greening Disease has a lot to do with the strong decline in the industry. Disagreements between farmers and the company also played a small part in low output. The story was completely the opposite in the sugar industry. Production in the sugar industry for 2013 declined greatly because of disagreements between farmers and the company. The crop season which was scheduled to start in mid November was delayed until January. This caused a 22 percent decline in sugarcane and 18 percent decline in sugar. The impasse between farmers and the company stalled works that were needed on the sugar roads which were damaged by an unusually long period of rain. Banana declined moderately with a 4 percent decrease in production. Rum and beer production were down 4 and 1 percent respectively.  

All indicators point to greater economic growth in 2014. There is even more public infrastructure projects scheduled to get off the ground; early reports from the sugar industry is promising; the citrus industry is expected to rebound and the tourism and aquaculture industries are expected to continue thriving. The last time the economy grew by less than 1 percent was in 2009 which was followed by a 3.1 percent GDP growth in 2010.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 February 2014 14:45