Belize’s Export Potential in the Caribbean

The goal of diversifying Belize’s export basket has, once again, moved a bit closer to being realized as we can now say the country is also exporting crude soybean oil.  A release from the Government of Belize (GoB) indicated that the first shipment was sent on Thursday, January 24, 2019, thereby, representing the “first ever shipment of soybean oil to the region”.

Data received from the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) shows that seven 50,000-pound containers with approximately 350,000 pounds (158.7 metric tons) of the product were shipped to Seprod Limited, located in Jamaica. This is a fraction of the 1,500 metric tons (3.3 million pounds) that Belize had informed the CARICOM Secretariat it is able to supply in 2019.

Regular viewers of the eponymously named counterpart to this column, the Business Perspective (BP) show, would recall a previous conversation regarding CARICOM member states’ Common External Tariff (CET) suspension requests to the Council on Trade and Economic Development (COTED) for them to import certain commodities from outside region at rates below the CET.

Among the goods included in that list was crude degummed soybean oil (HS Code 1507.10.00), for which Seprod Limited had requested a CET suspension for more than 99.2 million pounds (45,000 metric tons). Consequently, there are two things that can be easily gleaned from the forgoing. The first is that the current shipment (158.7 metric tons) is only 10 percent of the total amount that has been committed to for 2019. However, it also shows that with the implied import demand being 45,000 metric tons, there is significant room for growth.

Interestingly, the International Trade Centre (ITC) reports that between 2013 and 2017 Jamaica’s imports of the oil had increased by a five-year average of 27 percent. In 2017 alone, approximately 33,000 metric tons of the oil was sourced almost exclusively from the United States.

Clearly, there are benefits to Seprod Limited doing business within the CARICOM region, especially as it pertains to the ability to benefit from intra-CARICOM preferential tariff arrangements, as well as not needing to request the suspension.

The intra-CARICOM exporting of this product is a good example of what could be possible with the other commodities that the CET suspension has been sought for by other member states. This is undoubtedly an encouraging step towards further diversifying Belize’s export basket.