Charoen Pokphand Foods (CPF) has exported chicken products to Saudi Arabia for the first time since 2004, after getting the green light from Saudi food and drug authorities.
The historic shipment took place just two weeks after Saudi Arabia lifted an 18-year ban on Thai chicken and egg exports.
Thailand's chicken industry has made significant progress in the Middle Eastern country after years of attempts to restore diplomatic ties between the two nations, Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit said on Monday, as he presided over the inaugural shipping ceremony at CPF's Minburi Chicken Processing Plant 2.
"Thailand aims to export 10,000 tonnes of chicken to Saudi Arabia this year," he said, adding that Thailand will export 980,000 tonnes of broiler, an increase of 7%, worth over 100 billion baht, from last year.
"The Saudis will be one of the most important and largest markets in the Middle East, especially for halal products."
The ministry also plans to work with the private sector to promote processed food, fruit, and automotive products in Saudi Arabia around the middle of May or June.
CPF chief executive Prasit Boondoungprasert said his company will export 600 tonnes of chicken products, worth 47 million baht, to Saudi Arabia this month.
The company will export 6,000 tonnes of chicken products, with a total export value of 473 million baht, this year. It plans to export 60,000 tonnes, worth 4.2 billion baht, over the next five years.
With a population of 36.5 million, Saudi Arabia has the highest level of food imports among the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia will be the largest importer of chicken from Thailand. The Thai broiler industry expects to gain a 10% to 15% market share in the country.
Mr Prasit said the company's total chicken exports this year will be over 200,000 tonnes, worth more than 20 billion baht, with the UK the biggest export market, followed by Japan and Germany.
CPF expects its total revenue to rise by at least 10% this year, from 520 billion baht in 2021.
The animal feed business will make up 50% of the revenue, with 30% from the farm business and the remainder from the food business.
The growth has been attributed to rising global demand, especially in Europe, Japan, and the Middle East, as well as Thailand's lower production costs compared with those in other countries.
CPF's investment budget is worth 25 billion baht this year, and will be focused on machinery upgrades to increase efficiency and productivity.
Merger and acquisition plans have been suspended due to the uncertainty of the current economic situation.