Shipment contraction thins again
October shipments down 3.9% year-on-year
Exports are showing signs of recovery, with September's reading continuing the narrowing trend of recent months.
The Commerce Ministry reported on Thursday that customs-cleared exports fell 3.9% year-on-year in September, fetching $19.62 billion, while imports declined 9.1% to $17.39 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of $2.23 billion.
"Despite the contraction, the September figures remained a good sign, as higher shipments stemmed from product items in real sectors, not from gold," said Pimchanok Vonkorpon, director-general of the Trade Policy and Strategy Office.
The global manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI), which stood above 50 for the third straight month, suggests a better recovery in the near term, she said.
"Considering the deceleration of negative exports, this represents businesses' resilience both on the export and import sides in a challenging period and is a good signal for the Thai economy compared to the past," Ms Pimchanok said.
In September, shipments of agricultural and agro-industrial products rose 3.1% year-on-year to $3.2 billion, boosted by palm oil (+435.3%), fresh, chilled, frozen, canned and processed fruits and vegetables (+50.3%), cassava products (+29.5%), food seasonings (+17.7%) and pet food (+16.7%).
Exports of industrial products fell by 3.9% to $15.86 billion, slowed by jewellery and gems ex gold (-58.9%), radio receivers, TVs and parts (-23.7%), automobiles, equipment and parts (-15.3%), oil-related products (-13.6%) and gold (-9.2%).
Some industrial products expanded favourably, such as semiconductors, transistors and diodes (+34.1%), refrigerators, freezers and parts (+29.7%), fax machines, telephones, equipment and parts (+27.2%), washing machines and dry cleaning machines (+26.3%), furniture and parts (+25.2%), rubber products (+21.2%), computers, equipment and parts (+14.6%) and rubber gloves (+154.9%).
For the first nine months of 2020, Thai exports fell 7.3% to $172.99 billion while imports dropped 14.6% to $152.37 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of $20.62 billion.
According to Ms Pimchanok, export value in many markets improved from the prior month, reflecting a gradual demand recovery of trading partners after relaxing Covid-19 lockdown measures and injecting economic stimulus earlier.
Exports to the US grew by 19.7% from September, while those to China rebounded to 6.9% growth.
"Thailand's exports have shown clear signs of recovery," Ms Pimchanok said. "Exports to many key markets rebounded in line with the global trend while exports to other markets suggest a nascent recovery reflected by the smaller contraction sizes."
The ministry expects an export drop of 6% to $56 billion in the fourth quarter, leading full-year exports to shrink by about 7% to $228.9 billion.
There are downside risks still affecting Thai exports, such as the US election and a potential second wave of Covid-19 in many countries, especially in Europe and neighbouring countries like Myanmar.
But Thailand's efficiency in controlling the outbreak has encouraged the supply chain of goods and manufacturing production to operate normally.
Moreover, state measures by Thailand and its trading partners will stimulate and restore their economies in the medium term, Ms Pimchanok said.