Exports of jewellery, gems face contraction
Thailand's gems and jewellery sector has suffered from the pandemic, with the Gem and Jewelry Institute of Thailand (GIT) forecasting exports to contract this year.
Duangkamol Jiambutr, director of GIT, said the rate of the contraction will depend on how long the pandemic spreads.
Prior to the outbreak, GIT forecast shipment growth of 3% this year.
Gem and jewellery exports rank third for Thailand's total export value, trailing automotive and parts, and computers and parts.
The industry employs more than 700,000 staff.
Last year, gems and jewellery exports including gold topped US$15.7 billion (489 billion baht), up 30.3% from the previous year. In baht terms, export value amounted to 486 billion baht, up 26.6% from the previous year.
Excluding volatile gold, the shipments fetched $8.09 billion, up 6.34% over 2018, while in baht terms the total was 251 billion, up 2.70%. Key export markets included Asean, India, the Middle East and Hong Kong.
"We have to wait and see if May is any clearer as most shipments of high-value products need to be sent by air," she said. "If we reopen for arrivals of Chinese tourists, a rapid recovery is likely."
Ms Duangkamol said gems and jewellery are among the top 10 items on Chinese shopping lists, so Thai operators should prepare for a spree once Chinese tourists return.
She said GIT consulted representatives from the Thai Bankers' Association and the gems and jewellery industry yesterday, asking for cooperation from banks for soft loans to increase firms' liquidity in exchange for retaining workers during the crisis.
"In our discussions with the bankers, they said small and medium-sized entrepreneurs are now eligible to secure soft loans at a 2% annual interest with a six-month interest-free period," said Ms Duangkamol.