Thai exports rose for a fourth straight month in December as demand for electronics and auto parts increased, but the whole-year shipments were well below the government's forecast.
According to the Commerce Ministry, exports rose 13.45% last month from a year earlier to US$18.1 billion after climbing 26.86% in November.
In baht terms, exports rose 12.17% in December to 551.56 billion baht.
Imports totalled $20.5 billion in the period, up 4.67% year-on-year, resulting in a trade deficit of about $2.37 billion.
For all of 2012, Thai shipments increased 3.12% from a year before to $229.52 billion, with imports up 8.22% to $247.59 billion.
The trade deficit in 2012 was $18.1 billion.
In baht terms, exports for 2012 totalled 7.09 trillion baht.
The government said late last year that exports would end 2012 with 4.17% growth to about $232 billion.
Srirat Rastapana, director-general of the International Trade Promotion Department, said yesterday the negative factors that affected Thai shipments last year were mainly the European Union's poor economy, which weakened import demand for plastic pellets, plastic, textiles, leatherwear and furniture.
The economies of Japan and the United States also faced a slowdown while the impact from the massive floods of late 2011 still had an impact.
For 2012, the performance of the agricultural and agro-industrial sectors saw a fall of 10.8%, mainly for rice (down 28%), rubber (down 31.1%) and frozen and processed shrimp (down 17.3%).
The industrial sector, however, reported an export increase of 7% last year, mainly for automotives and auto parts (29.9%), construction materials (up 26.4%), and gems and jewellery (6.9%)
Mrs Srirat said export growth may average between 8% and 9% this year to $250 billion based on the estimated foreign exchange of 30 baht per US dollar.
"We hope the authorities will take care of the baht, making sure it is stable and not too strong," said Mrs Srirat. "We hope it won't strengthen further because exports already face many negative factors."
Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom said it was too early to assess the impact of the baht gains on export performance this year, adding he believed the central bank itself has been closely monitoring the baht movement and preparing measures. "Short-term and slight gains are unlikely to affect shipments much," he said.
Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said yesterday that the baht's recent strength was caused by short-term inflows and speculation, and said it may weaken as companies boost imports as part of infrastructure investments.
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