The Commerce Ministry has admitted for the first time the country's exports may shrink by more than 5% for the year after performance plunged 22.5% year-on-year in May, leading figures for the first five months to drop by 3.71% from the same period last year.
Pimchanok Vonkorpon, director-general of the Trade Policy and Strategy Office under the Commerce Ministry, said a contraction of more than 5% is highly likely this year if exports going forward average $17-18 billion a month.
"Despite higher demand for products from several countries anticipated in the following months, we expect the increase at a relatively slow pace, as most of the countries around the globe are still fretting over a second outbreak," she said. "International transport and logistics services have not yet fully recovered."
The Commerce Ministry reported on Wednesday customs-cleared exports fell 22.5% from May last year to US$16.3 billion, the lowest in four years, attributed to the global economic slowdown caused by the pandemic.
Imports dropped by 34.4% in May to $13.6 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of $2.69 billion. For the first five months of 2020, Thai exports contracted 3.71% to $97.9 billion, while imports dropped 11.6% to $88.8 billion, a trade surplus of $9.09 billion.
"The decline of Thai exports in May was largely the result of the global economic slowdown caused by the pandemic. Moreover, logistics challenges and rising transport costs delayed import orders despite high demand," said Ms Pimchanok. "The easing lockdown and government stimulus measures in many countries could help support demand recovery, in particular for Thai exports in the future."
Exports of agricultural and agro-industrial products rose 2.5% year-on-year in May to $3.69 billion. Some products expanded favourably, such as frozen and processed fruit and vegetables (+83.5%), cassava products (+8%), canned and processed seafood (+5.6%) and pet food (+17%). By contrast, exports of rubber (-42%), sugar (-25.4%) and rice (-4%) all decreased.
Export of industrial products decreased by 27% to $12.1 billion. Some products expanded, such as gold (+735%), semiconductor devices, transistors and diodes (+29.1%), and teleprinters, telephone sets and parts (+5.0%).
Decreases were seen in exports of automobiles and parts (-62.6%), oil-related products (-33.2%), precious stones and jewellery (-68.6%, excluding gold), computers and parts (-21.3%), rubber products (-22.2%) and air conditioners and parts (-39.5%).
In terms of markets, exports to most destinations except China dropped because of the effects of the pandemic and lockdown measures to curb its spread.
Exports to main markets dropped by 25.9%, with shipments to the US, Japan and EU falling by 17.3%, 24.2% and 40%, respectively.
Exports to high-potential markets dropped 21.3%. Shipments to China markets expanded by 15.3%, while exports to the Asean 5, CLMV and South Asian markets contracted by 27.9%, 28.0% and 71.0%, respectively.
Exports to emerging markets dropped by 36.3%, namely the Middle East (-30.6%), Africa (-47.9%), Latin America (-59.4%), Russia and CIS (-49.9%), while exports to Australia declined by 18%.