Exports see marginal rise in 2016
Growth ends three years of contraction
Thailand's exports rose for a second straight month in December, enabling the performance in 2016 to eke out a marginal growth of 0.45% in 2016, ending three years of contraction.
The Commerce Ministry yesterday reported exports rose 6.23% year-on-year in December to US$18.2 billion (641 billion baht) after unexpectedly surging 10.2% year-on-year in November to $18.9 billion.
Pimchanok Vonkorporn, director-general of the ministry's trade policy and strategy office, said Thai exports fared well almost in all key markets such as the US, Europe, Asean, China and Japan.
Japan was the market with the strongest growth at 27.3% in December, followed by Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam at 17.2%, South Asia at 12.9% and Asean at 9.2%. Shipments to the Middle East and Australia tumbled by 20.1% and 7.5% respectively last month.
The ministry said exports of agricultural and agribusiness products rose 5.5% in December, fetching $2.99 billion, boosted by higher shipments, particularly of rubber, which surged 36.2% year-on-year, fresh and processed fruits and vegetables (up 12.8%), animal feed (up 14.4%), sugar (up 6.2%), and frozen and processed shrimp (up 8.9%).
Exports of industrial products also increased 5.4% last month to $14 billion, led by gold, which rose 158% year-on-year, televisions and parts (up 44.5%), electrical appliances (up 27%) and plastic pellets (up 14.4%).
In December, imports rose 10.3% from the same month in the previous year to $17.2 billion, yielding a trade surplus of $938 million.
For the whole year, exports totalled $218 billion, up marginally by 0.45% from 2015, with imports shrinking 3.94% to $195 billion. The trade surplus totalled $20.7 billion.
"Amid the world's economic slowdown and the slower-than-expected recovery in global demand, last year's export performance is still satisfactory," said Ms Pimchanok. "This indicates that Thai products are still demanded by global consumers."
According to Ms Pimchanok, the ministry is confident that this year's exports will fare much better with 2.5-3.5% growth, fetching $221-223 billion baht.
The forecast is based on oil prices at $50-60 per barrel, and a foreign exchange of 35.5-37.5 baht against the dollar.
Ms Pimchanok said the prediction does not take into account the impact of Britain's exit from the European Union and uncertainties from the possible protectionist policies of new US President Donald Trump.
Nopporn Thepsithar, president of Thai National Shippers' Council, said higher exports in December were mainly because of higher oil prices after Opec agreed to cut production and gold exports surged on fears of a higher US currency.
He predicted Thai exports will still continue to perform well in the first quarter thanks to higher oil prices. The council maintains its export growth forecast of 2-3% this year.
"Exporters should prepare to prevent any adverse impacts," he said.