Shippers maintain full-year view of 8% export decline
Despite the easing of lockdown measures and higher demand in several export categories, Thailand's shipments are still forecast to contract by 8% this year, says a key trade group.
Ghanyapad Tantipipatpong, chairwoman of the Thai National Shippers' Council (TNSC), said the pandemic has ravaged major economies, especially Thailand's important trading partners such as the US, the EU and China.
"We expect higher household debt and lower purchasing power in all countries throughout the world," she said. "More importantly, transport remains inconvenient in many areas because of the lockdown measures, while the business sector's operating costs keep rising, the baht has started to appreciate and global oil prices are highly volatile because of continuously shrinking oil demand and escalating conflict between the US and Iran."
The Commerce Ministry reported on April 21 that exports unexpectedly rose 4.2% year-on-year in March to US$22.4 billion, marking the biggest expansion in eight months and the highest value in 19 months.
Excluding gold, oil and weaponry, March exports were up 2.1%.
According to the ministry, electronics such as computers and parts dominated the export rebound from the real sector and registered positive growth for a fourth straight month.
Recovery signs in electronic products were reflected across major markets such as the US, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea, the ministry said.
Exports of agro-industrial products such as fruits and vegetables, frozen and processed chicken, sugar and pet food have continuously expanded in response to rising demand for food and other essential goods. But lower global oil prices have suppressed the export value of oil-related products, which accounted for 8.2% of March's total exports.
For the first quarter of 2020, exports grew 0.9% year-on-year to $62.67 billion. Excluding gold, oil and weaponry, exports were up 1.1% in the period.
Pimchanok Vonkorpon, director-general of the Trade Policy and Strategy Office under the Commerce Ministry, said the ministry remains positive that exports are unlikely to plunge by 8-10% this year as predicted.
Despite challenging global factors such as the coronavirus pandemic, there are supporting factors for exports during the rest of 2020, including the nation's strength and competency in food and agricultural industry and essential goods, China's recovery from the outbreak and baht depreciation, Ms Pimchanok said.
Visit Limlurcha, vice-chairman of the TNSC, said forecasts for the Thai economy and exports in the second quarter are tough to make, given that the lockdown policies and easing measures adopted by each country are different.
"The contagion remains the single key issue we're concerned about right now," Mr Visit said. "But we expect the situation to start recovering late in the year, once the pandemic eases."