Rubber glove exports get pandemic boost
Global demand for protective gloves is soaring in light of the coronavirus pandemic, driving Thailand's rubber glove exports to surge 16% year-on-year in the first four months of 2020.
Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department under the Commerce Ministry, said the outbreak has resulted in rising rubber glove demand because the products are necessary protective equipment for medical professionals.
Rubber gloves are essential products as people become increasingly aware of hygiene and try to avoid germs, she said.
In the first four months, rubber glove exports rose by 16% to US$449.2 million from the same period last year.
Shipments to markets with which Thailand has free trade agreements (FTAs) saw healthy growth. Exports to China rose 129.5% to $31 million, followed by Australia (+79%, $9.60 million), Asean (+77.1%, $18.3 million), South Korea (+55.3%, $7.9 million) and India (+28.5%, $8.3 million).
Shipments to certain markets without FTAs also grew, with exports to the US rising 9.1% to $193.9 million and those to Brazil leaping 69.4% to $11.6 million.
Mrs Auramon attributed the rise in rubber glove exports to Thailand's complete supply chain for the rubber glove industry. Thailand not only produces latex but also owns standardised production technology, offering a competitive edge in terms of cost, price and quality.
Thailand has 13 FTAs in place with 18 countries and territories, with 17 no longer collecting import tariffs on Thai rubber gloves, including Asean, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Peru and Hong Kong.
Only India maintains a 10% import tariff on Thai rubber gloves.
"The rising demand trend for rubber gloves is an opportunity for Thailand to increase production capacities to support both domestic and international markets," Mrs Auramon said.
In 2019, Thailand produced more than 20 billion rubber gloves with exports making up 89% of total production.
Last year, Thailand fetched $1.2 billion from rubber glove exports. The country was the third-largest rubber glove exporter, trailing Malaysia and China.