FAO in Jamaica, Bahamas and Belize

Belize at a glance

Belize is small, upper-middle income country with a population of about 350 000 and a per capita income of US 6 130. The country has undergone significant economic transformation over the last two decades, mainly due to the growing tourism industry and to the commercial oil discovery in 2005. Tourism and agriculture are the main sources of income and employment. Tourism employs 28 percent of the population and represents 21 percent of GDP while agriculture employs 10 percent of the labor force and contributes 13 percent of GDP, mostly through exports of sugar and tropical fruits. The country also hosts the largest living barrier reef in the world and is a paradise for divers and marine wildlife.

Its small-size economy, high dependence on exports and imports, and exposure to natural disasters make the country particularly vulnerable to shocks and volatility. Real GDP growth slowed from 4.1 percent in 2014 to 0.9 in 2015, amid lower oil exports and decreased agricultural and fishery outputs. On the upside, the US economic expansion has boosted the tourism sector.

Agriculture in Belize is characterized by three main sub-sectors: a) a fairly well organized traditional export sector for sugar, banana, citrus, and marine products, b) a more traditional, small-scale farm sector, producing food mainly for local consumption, and c) a well-integrated large-scale commercial sector  (FAO, Country Programming Framework for Belize: 2011-2015, 2011). About 0.8 M hectares (2 M acres), or 38% of the land area, are suitable for agriculture, and only about 15% of this is being farmed every year.