By Michelle Sutherland
A continuous decrease in container tariffs on the international markets is expected to have a positive impact on Belize’s strained economy, resulting in a gradual decrease in the price of imported food products and even construction materials and supplies in the first quarter of the year.
With the pandemic now being managed and as was forecasted by both local and international economists, international indications are that container tariffs have been continuously decreasing from the 300% increase that had been recorded during the pandemic due to the shutdown of countries, factories, labour force, and even port congestion.
“The rate is definitely going down. It’s now like 150 percent. It has gone down like a 50% decrease because, on average, when you were looking at around $18000 to $20000 for a container, those rates have fallen significantly to between the $5000 and $10000 range, so you might have seen a general 50% decrease,” explained Custom Broker Delroy Fairweather.
“I know that prior to the pandemic, a 20 ft container from out of Brazil cost US$3,000. During the pandemic, it went as high as US$15000, and now it has fallen to US$6000. This, however, has shown that the price is still not where it was before.”
Fairweather, however, says that he is still at a loss as to whether the prices of goods and products will revert to their original pre-pandemic price. He says that it is something that he would have to wait and see for himself. While Fairweather also pointed out that he is not a trained economist, with several years in the customer brokers business, he says that one thing he knows for certain is that when the price of a product increases, the hardest part is for it to go back to its original price due to the fact that merchants are already used to selling the products at the increased price, which consumers are also already accustomed to buying at the fixed rate.
Fairweather says that as he had initially predicted, the timeline for the decrease will take effect in March of this year. He pointed out that that will be dependent on several factors, such as the fact that by that time, merchants will still have a lot of dry goods on their shelves, which they will need to sell out before implementing the new prices.
“We will definitely see those price changes in the food industry, which is one of the more highly imported goods into Belize, because we basically consume a lot. So I believe that would give you your first indicator of prices going down when it comes to food items because when it comes to dry goods, those may not move as much.
He also pointed out that even with the decrease in container tariffs other factors such as the cost of fuel, rate increase from shipping companies, bunker surcharge, congestion fees, the recent minimum wage implementation, and other fees, which are all known to increase, will have a determining factor on those prices when they take effect.