Focus on chicken, halal for Saudi market
The Commerce Ministry is set to roll out export promotion plans for chicken and halal food to tap into the Saudi Arabia market after the Middle Eastern state last week restored full diplomatic relations with Thailand after a freeze for more than three decades.
Phusit Ratanakul Sereroengrit, director-general of the International Trade Promotion Department, said his department and the International Trade Promotion Office in Jeddah are scheduled to bring trade delegations and executives both to Saudi Arabia and Thailand this year to discuss potential export expansion and promote sales of Thai products in Saudi supermarkets.
The department also plans to lead Thai entrepreneurs to participate in leading trade exhibitions in Saudi Arabia such as the Saudi Food Expo.
In addition, he said the department aims to beef up public relations for Thai food products, halal food, industrial products and beauty goods through online channels and hold seminars on how to tap into changing Saudi consumer behaviour under "Saudi Vision 2030".
Saudi Vision 2030 is a strategic framework to reduce the country's dependence on oil, diversify its economy and develop public service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation and tourism.
According to Mr Phusit, his department vows to continue activities to enhance Thai exporters' capabilities and provide in-depth information about the overall Middle East market.
In 2021, trade between Thailand and Saudi Arabia tallied US$7.30 billion, up 31.8% from $5.53 billion the year before. Of the total, exports from Thailand accounted for $1.63 billion and imports made up $5.66 billion.
Key exports from Thailand included automobiles and parts, wood and wooden products, air conditioners and parts, rubber products, and canned and processed seafood.
The imports were mainly crude oil, chemicals, fertiliser, pesticides, finished oil and metallic minerals.
He said Saudi Arabia is regarded as a market with promising growth, notably after the government announced Saudi Vision 2030.
"Saudi Arabia demands a lot of imports, especially for their production. This is considered a great opportunity for Thai entrepreneurs, especially those in the food and consumer product categories," said Mr Phusit.
"The issues Thai entrepreneurs have to watch out for are various measures issued by Saudi Arabia to curb imports and financial control laws."
Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, recently predicted exports to Saudi Arabia will grow to 2.2% of the total export value, up from a marginal 0.6% of total exports or $1.5 million last year, once Thailand resumes trade with Saudi Arabia.
With the country's reopening and appropriate marketing campaigns, Mr Sanan also expects the number of visitors from Saudi Arabia to reach about 150,000 a year, generating an income of 9 billion baht.
The prediction is based on average spending by Saudi visitors of 90,000 baht per person in 2019.
In 2019, Thailand drew almost 40 million international arrivals, of which 700,000 were from the Middle East, but only 36,000 were from Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia used to be the largest market for Thai workers in the Middle East. Between 1970 and 1980, there were an estimated 200,000 Thai workers, both legal and illegal, working in Saudi Arabia, repatriating about 9 billion baht.