Agriculture and tourism are the main sources of employment for many Belizean people, but Hurricane Earl in Summer 2016 greatly affected the agricultural sector. Loss of revenue has had a large impact on the Belizean economy. Damages are estimated around US$183.6 million, with BZS$ 100 million of this just from the impact to agriculture.
Belize’s exports have been contracting, which on top of damage from the South East of Corozal District to the North of Toledo, has had a large impact. Sugar was generally least effected, apart from the loss of infrastructure, but this year’s cane might be damaged. There was a spike in cattle diseases due to the flooding that the hurricane caused. When agriculture has been weakened, historically, so has the rest of the economy.
In October 2015, Fyffes stopped buying Belizean bananas, causing a major economic decline, resulting in thousands of unemployed locals and millions of BZD lost.
Fruta Bomba closed in June 2016, after 20 years of Belizean operation; a press release in February 2016 indicated that economic conditions after 2007’s Hurricane Dean hindered company attempts to rebuild their organisation. Fruta Bomba used to be Belize’s main employer but 251 people were left without a job.
In November 2015, a virus plague hit the shrimp industry, causing shrimp farms to face losses in raw produce and in investment. The infection was probably transmitted by birds that visited the ponds for the shrimp farms’ aquaculture. 600 workers were laid-off, and there were losses of BZ$30 million.
Sugar makes up 60% of Belize’s exports. In July 2016, several tonnes of molasses (syrupy type of refined sugar) were lost in Orange Walk district. 3,900 tons of molases (worth BZ$432,666) was lost in Hurricane Earl; the Belize Sugar Industry said that cane farmers should cover 65% of the losses from this. Cane Farmers protested, as the losses were taken directly from their pay.
The Statistical Institute of Belize has documented instability in agriculture in Belize for years. In 2014, according the the SIB, agriculture had a GDP of BZ$381 million, with marine products with BZ$112.34 million. Marine production slowed in the 4th quarter of 2015, due to the decline in shrimp production. Banana shipments decreased by 25% (7,000 tons) due to dry weather affecting the plants.
Livestock fared poorly in the same time. Sugarcane deliveries started in December in 2015, a month earlier than in the previous year. Citrus deliveries saw an unusual increase too. Purely in June 2016, exports across the agricultural industry declined by 30%. Marine products declined by more than 50%. Exports for bananas declined by 1/3.