FTI warns virus spread threatens exports

FTI warns virus spread threatens exports

The atmosphere at Bangkok's Sampeng market remains quiet during the pandemic. (Photo:  Somchai Poomlard)
The atmosphere at Bangkok's Sampeng market remains quiet during the pandemic. (Photo:  Somchai Poomlard)

The ongoing Covid-19 outbreak is threatening to hinder the export sector from achieving its 8%-10% growth target as more factories are hamstrung by rising infections, says the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI).

Kriengkrai Thiennukul, vice-chairman of the FTI, said disease transmission is affecting production capacity and will eventually mar plans to export goods.

Some production lines have stopped and manufacturers are forced to delay product delivery, he said.

"If the government cannot control the virus spread, the country may miss its 8-10% export growth target," Mr Kriengkrai said.

The Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking previously upgraded its export growth forecast to 8%-10% this year, rising from 5-7%.

Better export prospects are partly the result of a global economic recovery driven by the two largest economies -- the US and China.

However, the high number of daily infections in Thailand during a vaccine shortage is causing serious worry among people and business operators, he said.

The number of AstraZeneca vaccines allocated for Thailand has dipped from 10 million doses per month to 5-6 million per month as the manufacturer remains committed to exporting some of the jabs.

The third wave of Covid-19, which erupted in April this year, is more severe than the two previous outbreaks. Many factory owners admit it is difficult to prevent disease transmissions during this wave.

The FTI plans to send 50,000 rapid antigen test kits to companies that are members to help them screen workers so they can take infected workers for treatment.

This is part of the effort to stop the virus spread in the industrial sector.

Some factories hired laboratories to conduct Covid-19 tests at a price of 1,500 baht per worker. However, if there are many workers and 2-3 tests are needed a week, entrepreneurs shoulder a high expense, Mr Kriengkrai said.

"Operators have to keep conducting Covid-19 tests or they cannot run their business. That's why we badly need rapid antigen test kits," he said.

The FTI is negotiating with manufacturers as it aims to purchase test kits at inexpensive prices.

The federation is worried the outbreak may escalate and last until December if the government cannot effectively control the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

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