The Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB) published the results of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) survey and External Trade statistics for December 2023 yesterday. Food prices continue to drive up inflation in December 2023. The All Item CPI over all the categories stood at 117.0 – an increase from December 2022 and an indication of an overall national inflation rate of 3.7% for December 2023.

The year ended with a slightly lower inflation rate in December when compared to the previous three months, indicative of a gradual deceleration of the inflation rate according to the SIB. The higher cost of food and restaurant services was offset slightly by a decrease in prices within the transport sector when compared to the previous year.

Decrease of 3.9% for the month in Transport Sector cost for December 2023.

Price increases were observed in the cost of rice, flour, bread, tortillas, fresh vegetables, and dairy products also showed an increase. Higher prices were also recorded for personal hygiene products and haircuts for men and women. A five percent inflation was recorded in the cost of furnishing, household equipment, and routine household maintenance. While the cost of housing, water, electricity, and fuels increased by about 1.3 % in December 2023.

Increases in home rental costs were partially offset by the reduced prices of liquified petroleum gas (LPG).

Prices in the health sector saw an increase of 6.6%.

According to the SIB, the City of Belmopan recorded the highest increase in consumer prices, with an inflation rate of 8.6 percent – more than double the national average. Higher average prices for food items, home rentals, restaurant services, hotel accommodation rates, and personal care products drove up prices. Dangriga saw the lowest rate of inflation across the country.

The national annual inflation rate for the year 2023 when compared to the previous year stood at 4.4 percent.

External Trade

Imports for the period were down by 9.2%, while domestic exports also decreased by 7.8 percent in December 2023. The total imports for that month were valued at 230.6 million – representing a 9.2% or $23.4 million decline from the previous year’s numbers.

The imports of mineral Fuel and Lubricants declined by $6.7 million during that month – attributed to a decrease in the volume of premium and kerosene products imported into the country. Goods destined for the “Commercial Free Zones” dropped by almost 15%. Imports of diagnostic testing kits, vaccines, and fertilizers during 2023 also resulted in a decrease in the Chemical Products category. Purchases of manufactured goods also fell by $27.9 million.

Increased imports were recorded in aviation equipment, electric cables, and radar equipment during the year, driving up the Machinery and Transport Equipment category. Greater purchases of various food items, including orange concentrate, instant noodles, and margarine drove up Food and Animals imports for December 2023.  

Annual imports for the year 2023 amounted to $2.682 billion, a decrease of 4.1 percent from 2022 numbers.

Domestic exports for the month of December 2023 totaled $24.4 million – down by 7.8 percent or 2.1 million compared to exports for December 2022. Several categories of major exports recorded an increase during the month, but this was overshadowed by a substantial drop in revenues from animal feed. 

Reduced exports of orange concentrate also caused a decline in earnings from citrus products – from $1.4 million to $0.6 million.

Despite the overall downturn in domestic exports, earnings from bananas grew to $7.5 million in December 2023, an increase of $3.2 million. Sales of marine products also rose by $0.4 million, from $3.8 million to $4.1 million, mainly due to increased quantities of lobster tails being exported. Revenues from white sugar exports grew by a marginal $0.1 million for the month.

Revenues from the Central American region were down by more than two-thirds as a result of a decline in feed exports. Reduced exports of orange concentrate and alcoholic beverages to CARICOM resulted in decreased earnings of about $1.3 million during the period. In contrast, higher volumes of bananas exported to the United Kingdom resulted in a $2.2 million increase in earnings from this nation, from $3.3 million in December 2022 to $5.4 million in December 2023.

Annual exports for the year 2023 totaled $408.4 million, a decrease of 16.1 percent or $78.6 million compared to 2022.