Exports surge 17% in 2021
Thailand's exports rose by 24.2% year-on-year in December, beating expectations and helping 2021 growth hit 17.1%, the highest in 11 years.
Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit revealed on Friday customs-cleared exports tallied US$24.9 billion (811 billion baht) last month, with imports increasing by 33.4% to $25.3 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of $354 million.
For the whole year, Thai exports expanded by 17.1% to $271 billion, while imports rose by 29.8% to $268 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of $3.57 billion.
Exports in the real sector (excluding gold, oil-related products and weaponry) continued to rise by 23% in December from a year earlier, following a rise of 18.9% in November.
Exports that grew in December included: agricultural and food products; work-from-home products and home appliances such as furniture and parts, computers and parts, radios and TV receivers and parts, microwave ovens, refrigerators and parts, air conditioners and parts, telephones and parts; and medical and pharmaceutical products.
Other exports that expanded included intermediate goods and raw materials such as iron, steel and metal products, chemicals, plastic resins, rubber tyres, electronic integrated circuits, and machinery and parts; as well as durable goods or luxury goods such as automobiles and parts, and gems and jewellery (excluding gold).
Last month agricultural and agro-industrial product exports rose for a 13th consecutive month with a growth rate of 22.4% to $3.94 billion. Products that expanded included rubber (22.7%), cassava products (48.1%), rice (24.9%), fresh, chilled, frozen and dried fruit (23.7%), sugar (124%), fresh, chilled, frozen and processed chicken (17.6%), pet food (35.4%), wheat products and other processed foods (18.5%), canned and processed fruit (25.8%), and animal or vegetable fats and oils (+170%).
Industrial product exports increased for the 10th consecutive month with a growth rate of 24% to $20.1 billion.
Products that expanded included automobiles, equipment and parts (45.0%), oil-related products (34.0%), computers, equipment and parts (28.6%), electronic integrated circuits (11.5%), iron, steel and products (28.4%), gems and jewellery excluding gold (29.3%), and air conditioners and parts (25.8%).
"Such a strong expansion during a Covid-19 outbreak can be attributed to import acceleration in many countries to stock up prior to the holiday season; an improved environment related to the semiconductor shortage; and the implementation of the Commerce Ministry's export promotion plan," said Mr Jurin.
"At the same time, foreign demand and global trade volumes improved in line with the world economic recovery. Moreover, depreciation of the baht and high crude oil prices helped increase competitiveness and the value of related export products."
He said the ministry predicts the country's exports to grow 3-4% this year to $270-282 billion, or 9.08-9.16 trillion baht.
Mr Jurin said supporting factors include trading partners' improving economies and import expansion; depreciation of the baht in the first half of the year; an increase in food product and manufacturing raw material prices as demand recovers; an expected increase in containers and vessels in mid-2022; and less severe Covid-19 symptoms, with the virus becoming endemic.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade pact, effective since Jan 1, and a growing digital economy that increases trade opportunities and facilitates overseas market expansion via online platforms are also expected to increase Thai exports, he said.