Shippers see exports sinking through first half

Shippers see exports sinking through first half

A key shippers group expects Thai exports to fall by 3.3% year-on-year in the first half of 2020 but is holding out hope for a second-half turnaround that would bring full-year results to 0-1% growth.

Ghanyapad Tantipipatpong, chairwoman of the Thai National Shippers' Council (TNSC), said the clear impact of the coronavirus outbreak on exports is likely to be seen from February's data onwards.

The council forecasts shipments to contract by 3.6% and 2.9% in the first and second quarters accordingly, leading to a first-half contraction of 3.3%.

The decline in shipments stems largely from a delay in deliveries and lower production in China because of the virus emergency.

According to Ms Ghanyapad, key export segments feeling the pinch from supply chain disruptions in China include electronics; automobiles; rubberwood; fresh, chilled and frozen fruits and vegetables; plastic pellets; rubber products; computers and components; and chemical products.

"Although factories and customs services in China were allowed to reopen their production since Feb 10, they have yet to operate at full capacity, resulting in port congestion and overtime cargo and higher congestion surcharges, especially for reefer containers used for fresh fruit and vegetable shipments," she said. "Lower exports of farm products such as rice, tapioca and seasonal fruits are anticipated, due to the widespread drought that is drastically affecting production in the farm sector."

Ms Ghanyapad has proposed that the government introduce further aid measures for shippers and business operators hit by the coronavirus outbreak, such as six-month low-interest loans, a packing credit repayment extension for 12 months and a suspension of debt payments and banking fees for 12 months.

The state is also being urged to delay collection of new excise taxes like the levies on sugary drinks and salty snacks as a way to lower costs for the private sector.

Despite the latest hurdles, the TNSC is maintaining its overall export growth forecast for 2020 at 0-1%, reaching up to US$251 billion, on positive factors such as the baht's weakness and lower oil prices.

The Commerce Ministry reported on Feb 24 that customs-cleared exports rose by 3.4% year-on-year in January, fetching $19.6 billion.

The surprise increase was the first in six months and was largely driven by higher shipments of oil and gold.

Stripping out oil and gold, January exports were down 0.6% from the same month last year.

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