April surge buoys export outlook
Shipments poised for 15% gain this year
Helped by an export boom in April, the shippers' council feels upbeat that the country's exports could rise by 10%-15% this year.
Chaichan Chareonsuk, president of the Thai National Shippers' Council (TNSC), said export prospects have improved thanks to the global economic recovery, economic growth in major trading partners and healthy export demand for industrial products such as automobiles, electrical appliances, equipment and parts, and oil-related products such as plastic pellets and chemicals.
More importantly, he said vaccination rates keep climbing across much of the world.
"Thai exports have a chance to grow by up to 15% this year, assuming Thailand accelerates its imports to 2.01-2.25 million TEU [twenty-foot equivalent units] empty containers per year, up from an average of 176,000-207,000 TEU a month," said Mr Chaichan.
"The country also needs to manage appropriate freight rates and supply labour to the manufacturing sector. The government needs to expedite its efforts to lower import costs for raw materials such as steel, and limit logistics costs for raw material imports and exports."
The government is being urged to speed up inoculations among workers in the logistics and manufacturing sectors, especially those working at ports, airports or vulnerable gateways to the country, he said.
A weaker baht also helps boost export prospects, said Mr Chaichan.
"Foreign exchange is vital to drive exports," he said.
"If the baht stays at an average of 32 to the US dollar, it would improve the country's export performance and raise Thai competitiveness."
However, the TNSC is maintaining its export growth forecast of 6%-7% this year.
Thai exports are maintaining healthy growth momentum, fetching more than US$20 billion for three consecutive months and recording the highest growth rate in 36 months in April.
The Commerce Ministry reported on May 25 customs-cleared exports rose for a second consecutive month, jumping by 13.1% year-on-year to $21.4 billion in April, after 8.47% growth in March and a 2.59% contraction in February.
Shipments in the real sector (excluding gold, oil-related products and weaponry) continued to soar with a 25.7% expansion in April after a 12% rise in March.
Imports also increased by 29.8% last month to $21.3 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of $182 million.
For the first four months of 2021, exports expanded by 4.78% to $85.6 billion, while imports rose by 13.9% to $84.9 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of $698 million.
Products with strong expansion in April included agricultural and food products such as cassava products, rubber, fruit and vegetables, fresh, chilled and frozen chicken, palm oil, beverages, pet food and food seasonings.
Other gainers comprised: products related to working at home, home appliances such as computers, furniture and parts, air conditioners, microwave ovens, refrigerators and freezers, washing machines and parts, radio and TV receivers and parts, and mobile phones and parts.
Covid-related products such as rubber gloves, medical equipment and parts also grew during the month.
Products related to manufacturing such as steel and parts, chemicals, plastic resins, and electronic circuit boards, as well as durable goods or luxury goods such as automobiles and parts, and gems and jewellery (excluding gold) also saw robust growth in April.
Agricultural and agro-industrial product exports rose for a fifth consecutive month, gaining 7.3% year-on-year in April to $4 billion, led by rubber (+85.2%), fresh, chilled, frozen and dried vegetables and fruit (+22.3%), cassava products (+40.0%), beverages (+30.6%) and pet food (+11.3%).
Industrial product exports grew for a second straight month, rising 12.4% year-on-year to $16.6 billion.