Despite the stronger baht, Thai exports managed to grow by 10.5% year-on-year in April, driven by recovering shipments in the industrial sector.
Total exports last month fared better than expected, amounting to US$19.7 billion.
In baht terms, export value rose by 5.4% to 544 billion baht, said Vatchari Vimooktayon, the commerce permanent secretary.
Industrial shipments rose by 19.3% to $12.4 billion, driven by electronics (+45.2%), automobiles and parts (+19.1%), construction materials (+15.8%) and furniture (+17.1%).
But agricultural shipments fell by 4.4% to $2.92 billion on weakness in frozen shrimp (-30.8%), sugar (-24%), tapioca products (-14.2%), rice (-8.4%) and rubber (-8.1%). Only vegetables and frozen poultry saw increases of 4.9% and 3.3%, respectively.
The dip in farm exports was blamed on the appreciating baht, which reached as high as 29.62 to the US dollar last month from 30.37 in January.
For the first four months, exports _ constituting up to 70% of the country's gross domestic product _ fetched $75.7 billion, a rise of 5.7% from a year earlier.
In baht terms, the export value for the period rose by 1.6% to 2.24 trillion baht.
The currency's appreciation has begun to hurt international sales, especially for farm products, said Mrs Vatchari.
On the other side of the ledger, Thai imports in April totalled $21.6 billion, up by 8.9%, led by fuel and semi-raw materials such as diamonds, silver and gold.
The country's trade deficit was $2.85 billion for the month.
For the first four months, imports rose by 8.6% to $86.4 billion for a trade deficit of $10.8 billion.
The Commerce Ministry on Tuesday officially cut its full-year export growth target to between 7% and 7.5% based on the baht averaging 29 to the dollar, down from an earlier forecast of 8-9%.
On Monday, the National Economic and Social Development Board cut its export growth target to 7.6% from 11% based on an exchange rate of 28.80/29.80 baht to the dollar.
Vallop Vitanakorn, a vice-president of the Federation of Thai Industries, said the year-on-year export surge in April stemmed from a full industrial recovery after the massive floods of late 2011.
Industries that are reliant on imported raw materials have also benefited from the baht appreciation, he said.
"While the full impact of the baht's appreciation has yet to be felt, we expect a clearer impact to appear in the second and third quarters," said Mr Vallop.
About the author
- Writer: Phusadee Arunmas
Position: Business Reporter