Thailand's 2017 tuna exports are expected to fall 1% shy of the 76.3-billion-baht target, largely due to declining supply and a stronger baht, which has made Thai products less competitive, says the Thai Tuna Industry Association (TTIA).
TTIA president Chanintr Chalisarapong said the target of 76.3 billion baht had been set below the previous year's export value of 77.3 billion.
In terms of volume, tuna exports are expected to fall by 12% to 554,078 tonnes, down from 630,357 in 2016, as global tuna supply dries up.
"Thailand is the world's biggest tuna exporter, having millions of clients in more than 122 countries across the world," said Mr Chanintr. "And this year was one of the toughest for the tuna industry because we faced a lot of problems."
Major markets for Thai tuna include the US, Australia, Japan, the EU and the Middle East. But he said orders from the Middle East and the EU started falling due to weak demand.
Mr Chanintr said the TTIA shares the concerns of other export sectors over the baht, which has risen more than 9% this year to a 31-month high of 32.50 to the US dollar.
"That [growth] was too strong and too fast for Thai exporters to confront the risks," he said. "Moreover, there are more risks about changing US trade policies that will have an impact on currency and trade in 2018."
Risks to tuna exports, particularly shipments to the EU, are also posed by challenges related to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The EU has pushed Thailand to clean up the industry to have its IUU "yellow card" removed and prevent the introduction of any further non-tariff barriers which would keep Thai fishery goods from entering the trade bloc, said Mr Chanintr.
He said the TTIA wants the government to step in and help stabilise the baht and prevent it from strengthening further, thereby harming the competitiveness of Thai products.
"The baht should not be stronger than 33 per dollar, otherwise it will badly affect not only tuna exports but also all Thai food exports," said Mr Chanintr.