Shipments down 4% in August

Shipments down 4% in August

Strong baht and glut of agricultural items on global market dim prospects

Thai exports dipped 4% in August from a year earlier after an unexpected rise the previous month, falling prey to global economic uncertainty stemming from trade tensions and weak worldwide demand.

The Commerce Ministry yesterday said customs-cleared outbound shipments fell by 4% year-on-year in August to US$21.9 billion after increasing by 4.3% in July, the first rise in five months after contractions of 2.2% year-on-year in June, 5.8% in May, 2.6% in April and 4.9% in March.

The ministry said the increase in July was likely because of front-loading of imports to avoid the imposition of US tariffs starting on Sept 1.

Moreover, the uncertainty of trade disputes is clouding the global economy, causing a slowdown in most of Thailand's major trading partners, including Asean and South Asia. Falling global oil prices suppressed exports of oil-related products, and an oversupply of agricultural products in the global market, as well as baht appreciation, are still downside risks for Thai shipments, the ministry said.

Shipments of agricultural and agro-industrial products fell by 4.4% in August to $3.59 billion. Oversupply in the world market and baht appreciation are key factors suppressing exports of major agricultural products, namely rice (-44.7%), cassava products (-25.3%) and rubber (-7.2%).

Exports of some products still expanded, such as fresh, frozen and processed fruits (+26.8%), fresh and frozen chicken (+5.6%), and wheat products and other prepared food (+13.5%). In the first eight months of 2019, agricultural and agro-industrial product shipments shrank by 2.1%.

Industrial product exports dropped 1.9% to $17.7 billion, largely the result of lower exports of cars to Australia and Asean. Yet some industrial products registered gains, such as gold (378%), jewellery and accessories (51.1%), and motorcycles and parts (9.2%). In the first eight months of 2019, industrial product exports contracted 1.5%.

Overall imports fell by 14.6% in August to $19.9 billion, yielding a trade surplus of $2.05 billion.

For the first eight months, exports fell 2.2% year-on-year to $166 billion, with imports down 3.6% at $160 billion, for a surplus of $6.10 billion.

Pimchanok Vonkorpon, director-general of the Trade Policy and Strategy Office, said various challenges, namely the global economic slowdown, the prolonged Sino-US trade dispute and baht appreciation, are casting a shadow over Thai exports for the rest of 2019.

Ghanyapad Tantipipatpong, chairwoman of the Thai National Shippers' Council, said it will be hard for Thailand to record export growth this year. She urged the government to search for new export markets and rev up trade agreements as fast as possible to boost the country's shipments.

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