Despite Ebola, CBL Projects Agric Sector to ‘Slightly Grow’

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In its Financial and Economic Bulletin, Volume 15 Number 3 for the period — July to September 2014 — the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) has projected that the agriculture sector will “slightly grow.”

The CBL, however, gives a gloomy picture of all other sectors that are projected to decline.

According to the CBL, real Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which was earlier projected at 5.9 percent for 2014, has been revised to 1.0 percent, from 8.7 percent at end-2013.

“The 7.7 percentage points decline in growth was driven by weaker than anticipated fall in economic activities as a result of the Ebola epidemic,” the Bank said in its Financial and Economic Bulletin.

Except agriculture which, the CBL stated, is expected to slightly grow, all other sectors are projected to decline, including forestry to 0.0 percent, down from 0.5 percent; mining and panning, to negative 5.9 percent, down from 49.6 percent; manufacturing to 4.2 percent, down from 9.2 percent and services to 2.9 percent, down from 7.2 percent at end—2013, respectively.

The CBL, in its quarterly publication, states that the growth outlook for the Liberian economy in 2015 is projected at 0.0 percent due largely to the intensity of the virus, which is expected to subside by late 2015.

Sectorial Review: Agriculture and Forestry

The performance of the agricultural sector was mixed during the quarter, the CBL said. Except for coffee, which was not produced and sawn timber which declined, rubber, cocoa and round logs experienced quarterly growth, respectively.

Rubber

Rubber production for the quarter ended September, 2014, was 17,112.0 metric tons, up from 11,106.0 metric tons produced during the preceding quarter, representing an increase of 6,006.0 metric tons. The growth in rubber output was largely driven by increased production by one of the main rubber producing concessionaries. Year-on-year comparison showed that rubber production expanded by 131.4 percent.

Cocoa and Coffee

Cocoa production at end-September 2014, stood at 1,430.0 metric tons, up from 818.0metric tons produced during the previous quarter. The growth in cocoa production was in response to rise in the global market price of the commodity. When matched against the corresponding quarter of 2013, cocoa output contracted by 29.0 percent. Quarterly and yearly analyses on coffee production could not be done due to unavailability of data for the current and previous quarters of 2014.

Sawn Timber

Sawn Timber output during the review quarter declined by 74.6 percent to 69, 441.0 pieces, down from 273, 1150.0 pieces produced in the preceding quarter. The fall in sawn timber production was mainly explained by the current restrictions imposed by policymakers to contain the spread of the EVD. On a year-on-year basis, sawn timber production fell by 35,827.0 pieces (34.5 percent).

Round Logs

Round Logs produced during the quarter totaled 43,168 cubic meters, 17.1 percent lower than the quantity produced during the preceding quarter. The fall in production was also due to the restrictions imposed by the Government to contain the further spread of the Ebola virus.

Year-on-year comparison showed that production in the review quarter increased by 20,338.0 cubic meters compared with the same period a year ago.

The CBL Financial and Economic Bulletin further  reports that the performance of the mining sector was mixed during the quarter. While diamond slightly expanded in production, gold and iron ore outputs experienced declines.

Gold

The production of gold for the quarter ended September, 2014 stood at 4,044.0 ounces. This level of production was down by 2,593 ounces when compared the preceding quarter of 2014. Similarly, yearly comparison revealed that gold output declined by 2,593.0 ounces from the level recorded at end-September, 2013.

Diamond

Diamond output during the review quarter stood at 20,626.0 carats, up from 19,555.0 carats produced during the previous quarter of 2014.

Iron Ore

Iron ore output at end-September 2014 fell by 0.3 percent to 1,109,246 metric tons, down from 1, 357,825.0 metric tons. Year-on-year analysis showed that production in the quarter expanded by 2.9 percent compared with third quarter of 2013.

Manufacturing

Output in the manufacturing sector was mixed. Of the twenty-one commodities regularly assessed, sixteen commodities (76.2) recorded declines at end-September, 2014 due mainly to the intensity of the EVD that hit the country while the balance five commodities (23.8 percent experienced growth.

Cement

The production of cement at end-September, 2014, stood 49,285.0 metric tons, 44,011.0 metric tons lower than that of the previous quarter. The decline in cement production was restrained coupled with the intensity of the EVD. When assessed against the corresponding period of 2013, production declined by 8.2 percent or 4,389.0 metric tons.

Beverages

Total production of beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) during the quarter was 3.5 million litres, 3.1 million litres lower than the previous quarter’s production.

The fall in beverages output was on account of lower demand for the commodities as a result of the national health crisis. When matched against the same period a year earlier, output contracted by 2.6 million litres or 42.2 percent. Of the quarter’s total production, alcoholic beverages (spirits, beer and stout) accounted for 58.7 percent, while the share of non-alcoholic beverages (Malta and Soft drinks) constituted 41.3 percent.

Soap

Soap output during the review quarter increased by 19.4 percent or 12,095.0 kilograms, to 74,560.0 kilograms, up from 62, 465.0 kilograms produced in the preceding quarter. The growth in soap output was on account of surging demand against the fight of the Ebola virus. When compared with the corresponding period in 2014, soap production increased by 16.8 percent or 10, 701.0 kilograms.

Chlorox

Production of chlorox during the quarter stood at 416, 395.0 litres, up by 78.2 percent or 182, 683.0 litres compared to the previous quarter. The surge in output was influenced by increased demand for the production as an antidote to the spread of the EVD as compared in 2013 which production expanded to 208, 913.0 litres.

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