Rubberwood burnt the most by virus

Rubberwood burnt the most by virus

Exports to China frozen for first half

A local farmer taps a rubber tree in Phuket. China's closure of factories is denting the industry. Achadtaya Chuenniran
A local farmer taps a rubber tree in Phuket. China's closure of factories is denting the industry. Achadtaya Chuenniran

The Thai rubberwood industry is among the hardest hit by the impact of the recent coronavirus epidemic, as exports to China have been halted because of the risk of exposure.

Nikorn Likhitwangphanit, president of the Thai Hevea Wood Association, said more than 90% of rubberwood raw materials are bound for China.

"We cannot export rubberwood products to furniture manufacturers in China, as most of them have closed their factories until March and even when they reopen, the workers have to stay in detention for one month," he said.

"We expect exports to be halted in the first half of the year."

China is the world's largest furniture maker and Thailand exports about 70 billion baht worth of rubberwood annually.

This year, Mr Nikorn said Thailand is projected to lose about 30 billion baht worth of exports as Chinese furniture makers' production is interrupted.

"This will definitely affect rubber farmers as they fell rubber trees that are more than 25 years old on a combined 400,000 rai to supply the furniture industry," he said.

According to Mr Nikorn, the government is being urged to step up financial aid measures to ease liquidity for operators and exporters.

On Wednesday, representatives from the association, including Mr Nikorn, talked with the Commerce Ministry, the Export-Import Bank of Thailand and the Government Savings Bank.

"The private sector proposed the government help procure soft loans worth at least 15 billion baht to help them weather this outbreak," he said.

Malika Boonmeetrakool Mahasook, an adviser to Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanavisit, said the parties agreed to assign the International Trade Promotion Department to work with the Office of Agricultural Economics to study financial aid measures and propose them to the National Rubber Policy Committee, which is chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, and then the cabinet.

The Thai Bankers' Association will also be requested to come up with additional aid measures to improve liquidity for processed rubberwood operators such as low-interest loans, lower interest rates or debt suspension, she said.

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