September exports roar to record high

September exports roar to record high

Demand firm in both mature and emerging markets

A container build-up at Laem Chabang deep-sea port symbolises the ongoing surge in exports - despite the high value of the baht. (Bangkok Post file photo)
A container build-up at Laem Chabang deep-sea port symbolises the ongoing surge in exports - despite the high value of the baht. (Bangkok Post file photo)

Exports rose for a seventh straight month in September, surging 12.2% year-on-year to a record-high US$21.8 billion (722.4 trillion baht), as demand increased in all traditional and emerging markets, says Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn.

She said exports to the traditional key markets of the US, Japan and EU rose by 5.7%, 10.3% and 2.1% year-on-year in September, while exports to the CLMV group climbed 13.9%, marking a fifth straight month of double-digit growth.

Exports to China leapt 12.1% and Asean shipments rose by 1% in September, while exports to South Asia shot up 34.6%.

Imports in September grew by 9.7% to $18.5 billion, giving Thailand a trade surplus of $3.4 billion.

For the nine months to September, exports rose by 9.3% to $175.4 billion, while imports swelled 14.8% to $163.2 billion, generating a trade surplus of $12.2 billion.

"Overall Thai exports in the first nine months of the year were higher in both industrial and agricultural segments," Mrs Apiradi said.

Key sectors whose exports rose substantially included rubber, sugar, chicken, gold, oil, computers and automotive, she said.

The Commerce Ministry forecasts continued export growth for the rest of the year, citing the recovering economies of Japan, China and the US.

The value of commodity exports is expected to rise in tandem with global prices, particularly for rubber, sugar, plastics and chemical products, Mrs Apiradi said.

With exports surpassing 9% growth in the first nine months, Mrs Apiradi voiced confidence that shipments in the remaining months would grow by more than 8% to lift full-year export growth above the target of 7-8%.

"If we continue to export at about $19 billion a month during the rest of this year, exports for the whole of 2017 should grow at least 8% or 8.5%, since we expect strong demand during the year-end period," she said. "Moreover, several export promotions should also pay off."

The strengthening baht, which has weighed somewhat on exports over the past several months, is expected to subside on expectations that the Fed will raise interest rates again this year and boost the US dollar.

The baht has risen 8.3% against the dollar this year as one of the best performers in Asia.

"The pressure of the strengthening baht should be minimal in the last quarter of the year," Mrs Apiradi said. "It could make Thai exporters more relaxed in quoting prices and should lend support to overall exports in the last quarter of the year."

The Commerce Ministry is still monitoring external risks closely, particularly geopolitical tensions in and around the Korean Peninsula.

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