Exports above expectations
Exports fared better than expected for the full year of 2020, contracting 6.1% from the previous year, driven by an unexpected rise in December, ending a seven-month decline.
The Commerce Ministry reported that customs-cleared exports fetched US$20.1 billion in December, up 4.71% year-on-year, with imports rising 3.62% to $19.1 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of $964 million.
Products with strong expansion in December were mainly from three groups: food products; work-from-home products and home appliances; and Covid-19 protection products such as rubber gloves, medical equipment and parts.
Other gainers were major industrial products such as plastic pellets; chemicals; electronic integrated circuits; computers, equipment and parts; automobiles and parts.
For the full year, exports contracted by 6.01% to $231 billion while imports dropped 12.4% to $207 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of $24.5 billion.
According to the Commerce Ministry's data, agricultural and agro-industrial products exports expanded by 2.1% year-on-year in December to $3.22 billion.
Products that expanded favourably included cassava products (+63.6%), rubber (+30.0%), pet food (+25.7%), food seasoning (+15.5%), and fresh, frozen, canned and processed fruit and vegetables (+4.4%).
Industrial product exports also rose by 6.7% in December, fetching $16.2 billion.
Products that gained included rubber gloves (+220%), cell phone and parts (+33.9%), medical equipment and parts (+18.3%), furniture and parts (+15.5%), computers, equipment and parts (+15.1%), electrical appliances (+13.2%), chemicals (+12.2%), plastic pellets (+8.6%), electronic integrated circuits (+7.3%), and automobiles, equipment and parts (+3.2%).
For all of 2020, agricultural and agro-industrial products contracted by 3.5% to $39.1 billion, while industrial products contracted by 5.6% to $186 billion.
"Overall exports have done quite well in 2020 despite the pandemic and lower border trade, with a lower drop than the ministry's forecast of a 7-10% contraction," said Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit.
"This will be good for the country's GDP."
Pimchanok Vonkorpon, director-general of the Trade Policy and Strategy Office, attributed lower exports in 2020 to the recovering global economy.